Making the Tough Times a Little Easier Schedule a Free Phone Consultation
Soldier and his wife sitting at couch after argument

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Divorce Protections 

The Law Offices of Howe & Garside, Ltd  June 10, 2024

Divorce is generally governed by state law, but federal laws like the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can significantly influence cases involving military personnel. If you or your spouse serve in the military and are contemplating divorce, it is essential to understand how the SCRA affects your situation. 

The Law Offices of Howe & Garside, Ltd can gladly guide you through the legal and emotional turmoil that comes with a military family law. Get dependable legal support by reaching out to the firm, and get the guidance you need during these tough times. 

What Is the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act?

The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was enacted in 2003 as an enhancement of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940. Its primary goal is to reduce the legal and financial burdens military personnel face due to their service. 

Key Features of the SCRA 

  1. Legal protections: The SCRA provides various legal protections to service members, ensuring they aren't disadvantaged in court proceedings. For example, if a servicemember is deployed or stationed far from home, they might not be able to attend court hearings. The SCRA allows for the postponement of these proceedings to ensure fairness. 

  1. Financial protections: The Act includes provisions to protect servicemembers from financial hardships. This includes capping interest rates on pre-service loans and credit obligations at 6%, preventing default judgments, and allowing for the termination of certain leases and contracts without penalty. 

  1. Deployment and relocation: Military life often involves frequent relocations and deployments, which can interfere with servicemembers' ability to manage their personal affairs. The SCRA addresses these challenges by providing protections related to rental agreements, security deposits, eviction, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgage interest rates, mortgage foreclosure, civil judicial proceedings, and income tax payments. 

Why It Matters

The federal government aims to ensure that servicemembers can focus on their military duties without worrying about legal and financial troubles back home. By offering these protections, the SCRA helps maintain the stability and readiness of the armed forces, allowing servicemembers to serve their country without the added stress of unresolved legal and financial issues. 

The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act and Divorce

The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers specific protections to military personnel involved in legal proceedings, including divorce. While it does not alter the substantive aspects of a military divorce—such as child custody, visitation, child support, and asset division, which are determined by state law—it significantly impacts the timing and progression of the divorce process. 

Key Ways the SCRA May Affect a Divorce Case:

1. Service of Process:

  • Complexity of serving legal documents: Serving legal documents to active duty servicemembers, especially those stationed abroad, presents unique challenges. The SCRA outlines protocols to ensure that military members receive appropriate notifications of legal actions against them. 

  • Ensuring notification: The Act mandates specific procedures to confirm that servicemembers are properly informed, ensuring their legal rights are protected despite their service commitments. 

2. Stay of Proceedings: 

  • Requesting a stay: Active duty servicemembers can request a stay (postponement) of divorce proceedings if their military service materially affects their ability to participate. This stay is not automatic and must be requested by the servicemember. 

  • Duration of stay: The stay can extend for the duration of the servicemember's active duty and up to 60 days after their service concludes. The specifics of the stay's duration depend on the servicemember's situation and the court’s discretion. 

  • Optional nature: Requesting a stay is voluntary, allowing servicemembers to decide whether delaying the proceedings is beneficial for their circumstances. 

3. Protection from Default Judgments: 

  • Default judgment safeguards: The SCRA protects service members from default judgments (decisions made in their absence) during active duty and for a short period afterward. This protection ensures that servicemembers are not unfairly penalized for their inability to respond to legal actions while fulfilling their military duties. 

4. Child Custody, Support, and Visitation: 

  • Temporary custody orders: The SCRA allows courts to issue temporary custody orders that accommodate a servicemember's military obligations. These orders are designed to ensure that service commitments do not unduly impact parental rights or responsibilities. 

  • Modification of existing orders: Existing custody orders can be modified to reflect changes in a parent's military service commitments. This flexibility ensures that military responsibilities are considered and that the best interests of the child are maintained. 

By understanding these provisions of the SCRA, servicemembers and their families can better navigate the complexities of divorce while ensuring that the rights and obligations of all parties are respected and upheld. 

Navigating the SCRA in Military Divorce

Whether you are a military servicemember or the spouse of one facing divorce, understanding the implications of the SCRA is crucial. The SCRA strives to balance the interests of military personnel and non-military spouses fairly during legal proceedings. 

For Further Information:

  • Contact our knowledgeable attorneys at The Law Offices of Howe & Garside, Ltd. 

  • Schedule a consultation with our experienced military divorce lawyers. 

  • Explore your options and protect your rights under the law. 

Understanding and navigating the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act can help ensure a fair and informed divorce process for military families. Contact the offices at The Law Offices of Howe & Garside, Ltd, in Newport and Lincoln, Rhode Island, for assistance.