How the Service members Civil Relief Act may affect your case

The Service members Civil Relief Act is a federal law that protects the legal rights of military service members while they are on active duty. The SCRA allows service members to delay certain legal proceedings, including divorce and child custody proceedings, for at least 90 days. This can have important impacts on your divorce or child custody case.

The purpose of the SCRA is to allow service members to devote all of their energy to defending the nation. Under the SCRA, a service member can obtain a 90-day stay of court or administrative proceedings. In some cases, the service member may be able to delay the proceeding longer than 90 days. The SCRA applies only to civil proceedings, such as family law proceedings. The Act does not apply to criminal proceedings.

Service members who are deployed can also invoke their rights under the SCRA. For example, if a service member's ex requests to change the child custody arrangement while the service member is deployed, the service member can request a stay under the SCRA. The SCRA can then ensure that the service member has the opportunity to respond to the request and protect his or her parental rights.

If a court grants a service member's request for a delay under the SCRA, it may take much longer for a court to issue orders in your case. The service member will have more time to respond to any motions filed with the court, and the court may postpone hearings so that the service member can arrange to be present. These delays can be very frustrating to the parties involved in the case, especially to the nonmilitary spouse or parent.

Remember that a judge can enter temporary orders even if the case is delayed. Under Utah law, family courts can issue temporary orders regarding both financial and parenting issues. Such issues include alimony, property distribution, child support, child custody, and attorney fees.

If you are a military member who is going through a divorce or dealing with a child custody dispute, consider speaking with an experienced attorney. An attorney who is familiar with federal laws and the special issues that military families face can help you with your case.

Source: Military OneSource, "Child Custody Considerations for Members of the Military," Accessed Nov. 30, 2015

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