Divorce can be a confusing process for those who face it. When a person needs a divorce, and one or both parties involved are in the military, the process is different from when two civilians file for divorce. Active members of the military will have a different set of challenges that civilians don’t have to face during divorce.
The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
Enacted in 2003, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides legal protection for service members on active duty. Two protections from the SCRA impact military divorce: relief from civil judgments and a stay of civil proceedings.
First, the stay of civil proceedings applies can delay divorce proceedings for members of the military. This process allows those in the military to delay a proceeding until they are available to participate in it. To obtain a stay of civil proceedings, a person must send an application to a court and meet specific requirements.
Requirements for a stay of proceedings are the following:
- The applicant must be an active military member or an active military member within the last 90 days.
- The applicant has been notified of the proceeding.
- The applicant must submit a request for the stay in writing.
- The application must say why the person can’t participate in proceedings and when they’ll be able to.
- The application must include a statement from a military member’s commander.
Notably, being stationed overseas is not always an adequate reason for receiving a stay of proceedings. Since many service members receive 30 days of vacation a year, some judges will require being told why a service member is unable to use their leave to attend proceedings.
Second, the SCRA provides service members with a chance to reopen some judgments related to their divorce. This is known as protection from default judgments. Essentially, it enables service members who were not able to defend their case to do so once they are able to.
Protection from default judgments if possible if the following is true:
- The person was in the military within 60 days of the judgment
- Military service prevented the person from presenting their case
- The person has a case to make
- The application for reopening the judgment was submitted while the person was active duty or within 90 days of being so.
Where Do Service Members or Their Spouses File for Divorce?
Because military couples often spend significant amounts of time apart, it can be difficult for them to know where to file for divorce. Courts need to establish jurisdiction over at least the person filing for divorce or their spouse.
Establishing jurisdiction is possible by filing for divorce in:
- A state one spouse lives in
- A state one spouse is a resident in
- A state that both parties agree to file in
Call (508) 502-7002 for Help with Your Military Divorce
Speaking with an attorney is the best way to ensure that your military divorce is receiving the attention it needs to be successful. At Miller Law Group, P.C., we offer military divorce assistance with a team of dedicated family law attorneys. We know that the people who trust us need options, and we always work to help clients with every aspect of their case. During a free consultation, we’ll look at your needs and decide if our help will be beneficial to you and your family.
Call Miller Law Group, P.C. now for a free consultation at (508) 502-7002. Our Massachusetts military divorce lawyers are ready to explore your options and answer your questions.