Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

What happens if your spouse files for divorce while you are deployed overseas? How can you appear at a custody hearing in Washington if you are serving on a ship on the Pacific? The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides protection for active duty service members. Divorce Lawyers For Military is experienced asserting SCRA rights for military members in divorce cases.

How SCRA Protects You in Divorce

The SCRA was enacted on December 19, 2003, replacing the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act. SCRA provides protections for active duty Service Members by delaying prosecution of civil lawsuits filed against service members (including divorce, custody, and paternity proceedings), and protecting against default judgments (automatic loss as a result of failing to respond to the lawsuit).

Divorce cases have serious deadlines. Contentious issues such as custody, support, and property division often involve hearings before a judge. It is unfair for your spouse to demand motions be heard and hearings held while you are deployed outside the state of Washington.

For example, if you are stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, your attorney can postpone court action until you are able to appear in court. However, the SCRA contains a provision that allows courts to disregard SCRA protections if they are being abused.

Using SCRA to Delay Court Proceedings

There are several ways a Service Member can obtain an initial “stay” (halt) of 90 days.

First, if the court determines that a Service Member is absent due to military service and that the Service Member may have a defense that cannot be presented without the Service Member’s presence, the court is required to grant a 90-day stay.

Second, if the Service Member has not received notice of a proceeding, the court is required to grant a 90-day stay.

Third, if a Service Member requests a stay and demonstrates that his or her military service prevents an appearance in court, the court is required to grant a 90-day stay.

Stays may be renewed if military service continues to prevent the Service Member from appearing before the court. It is important to note that all of the protections offered by SCRA requires affirmative action on your part. You must act or have an attorney act on your behalf.

Protections from Default Judgments

A court cannot enter a default judgment against a Service Member unless SCRA procedures are followed. For example, the court must provide counsel for the absent Service Member. If a default judgment is entered in violation of the SCRA, the Service Member may ask the court to set aside the default judgment.

This protection means that your spouse cannot finalize your divorce by default, or an ex-spouse cannot get a default judgment modifying custody, child support, or spousal support unless SCRA procedures are followed.

SCRA and DLFM Protection

If you are represented by Divorce Lawyers For Military, you never have to worry about missing a court date. No matter where in the world you are stationed, your DLFM attorney will be ready to appear for you in Washington courts to protect your rights and assert your SCRA protections.

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