If you are an active member of the military or married to an active member of the military, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act may affect your divorce proceedings.
Each divorce case is unique and, even when a divorce is straightforward and uncontested, it is wise to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer. If you are a member of the military or you are seeking a divorce from an active member of the military, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) may affect your divorce case. For legal counsel that is specific to you, consult with our experienced divorce attorney at Heather Ward Law today.
What Is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?
The purpose of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act–which is an updated and amended version of its predecessor, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940–is to offer a myriad of legal protections to those who are serving on active duty in the military. Of those protective provisions, there are two that are relevant to a divorce case:
- Stay of civil proceedings
- Relief from civil judgments
The first, a stay of civil proceedings, means that a court may put a pause on civil proceedings involving a servicemember on active duty that lasts for at least 90 days; the other provision, a relief from civil judgments, simply means that the military member is protected from having a default judgment entered against them.
How the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act May Impact Your Divorce
The two provisions listed above–stay of civil proceedings and relief from civil judgments–found in the SCRA can have a significant impact on how your divorce process unfolds.
First, if you file a petition for divorce against your spouse who is an active member of the military, the military member will not be held to the same time limit that a non-military spouse would in responding to your petition for divorce. Instead, an active member of the military can request a 90-day delay or stay, which can be extended for an additional 90 days in some cases. This means that your ability to divorce your spouse will be put on hold.
Second, in a divorce involving two civilians, if the petitioner does not hear back from the respondent in the required amount of time, they can seek a divorce by default. In a default divorce, the judge grants the divorce and, typically, all of the provisions that the petitioner is requesting because the other party has failed to respond and participate in the civil action. However, military members are protected from default divorce. Again, the court must grant a stay if there is a defense to the civil action.
Learn More About SCRA and Divorce from an Experienced Family Law Attorney
If you are seeking a divorce and you are a member of the military or are married to a military member on active duty, we strongly recommend consulting with an experienced attorney who can provide you with information that’s relevant to your case and guide you through the various ways that SCRA may affect your divorce. To learn more, please schedule a free consultation with the experienced Massachusetts divorce lawyer at Heather Ward Law. Reach out online or call (617) 903-8955 today to get started.