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Don't Be In The Dark: Family Law, The Military & The SCRA

The first question you probably have is - what is the SCRA? The SCRA, or the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, is a federal law with the specific stated purpose of protecting service members by providing for the:

"temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions that may adversely affect the civil rights of servicemembers during their military service."

If you are in the military, or a citizen serving with allied forces, you are entitled to protections in family law proceedings under the SCRA. So what, exactly, are these protections?

As part of their service, military members are required to receive notice of the SCRA and its protections. Many service members do not understand the specific SCRA protections or that it covers certain elements of family law proceedings. The SCRA is not applicable in all circumstances, but it is more likely if you are on active duty or deployed as part of your service. 

The SCRA protects against default judgments, allows for a stay in the proceedings and allows for waiver of the protections.

The SCRA protects service members by preventing a default judgment without addressing the military status of the non-responding party. This means that a spouse or parent cannot pursue a judgment against the other party without assertions about the non-responding party. They have to state, under oath, that the individual is (or is not) in the military, that the person is in the military and the SCRA doesn't apply or that a waiver of protections under the SCRA has been obtained. 

The SCRA also protects service members in certain circumstances by allowing for a stay (pause) of the proceedings for a period of at least 90 days. After the initial stay of the proceedings, the service member may apply for an additional stay. If the service member does not wish to stay the proceedings, the SCRA allows for service members to waive their protections under the law and allow proceedings to continue.

Every single family law proceeding must, at some point, address the military status of the parties. The SCRA is clear in its purpose to protect service members. Without this protection, service members would be in the dark on important family law proceedings - such as divorce or custody matters - that affect them and their families. 

If you are in the military and you are facing a family law proceeding, protect yourself by understanding your legal protections and rights unique to a military divorce or custody proceeding.  

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