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I’m active duty military. Can I put off my divorce while I’m abroad?

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2021 | Military Divorce |

Yes. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides a variety of temporary protections for active duty service members, some of which apply to divorce. In general, civil court proceedings like divorce and child custody will be delayed while you are on active duty, and no court orders can be entered against you in your absence.

Basically, the SCRA is an acknowledgement that your military service should be your first priority during active duty. There are certain exceptions, but the law protects you from most civil proceedings, orders and judgments as long as your ability to fulfill these legal responsibilities is materially affected by your military service.

Who is protected by the SCRA?

The SCRA applies to all full-time, active duty personnel from any branch of the armed services, along with commissioned officers of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who are on active service. It applies to all reserve personnel on active duty, as well as members of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard.

It applies whenever you are called to active duty by the President or Secretary of Defense or for the purpose of responding to a presidentially-declared national emergency. It applies whether your active-duty service is mandatory or volunteer. You do not have to be stationed to a combat zone for SCRA protection.

To qualify for SCRA protection, you generally must be on active duty for over 30 days in a row. However, reservists’ annual two-week tour counts as sufficient active duty under the SCRA. The SCRA’s protection begins when you receive your mobilization order, even though there may be some time between the mobilization order and when you report for duty.

How does the SCRA work?

If someone files a civil proceeding against you while you are on active duty, you can ask the court to delay the proceeding until your return. You may have to show that your military service materially affects your ability to respond to the proceeding.

This applies to divorce, child custody proceedings, child support proceedings and other family law matters.

In general, no court orders may be entered against you in your absence. Court hearings involving you will likely be delayed. You are generally protected from the execution of judgments, including attachments and garnishments.

Moreover, you can request expedited hearings if that would be more convenient, and you may be entitled to testify electronically when unavailable.

Ultimately, your divorce, child custody or other case will be decided under state law. You should talk to a lawyer in the state in which the legal proceeding was initiated for assistance.