Being away from home, even for a short time, can make it difficult to deal with regular day-to-day duties like paying bills, responding to mail, and keeping registrations updated. For active-duty military members, being away from home can last for weeks, months, or even longer. Service members could return home to find they were evicted, have a hold on their bank account, or their vehicle was repossessed.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was enacted in 2003 to provide some financial relief to active duty military members. The SCRA is intended to ease the financial burden on issues including rental agreements, credit card interest rates, leases, insurance, and income tax payments. This generally prevents adverse financial penalties from proceeding while the individual is away on active duty and allows time upon return to clear up any issues.
Postponing Civil Judicial Matters
Facing a lawsuit is hard enough even when you are not going anywhere. Military members may be issued a civil complaint shortly before or while on active duty. This can make it extremely difficult or even impossible to respond to a lawsuit from the other side of the world. Eligible civil matters for postponement include:
- Petition for Divorce
- Child Paternity
- Spousal Support
- Child Support
Requesting a Stay of Proceedings
Under 50 U.S.C. App. § 521(d), in any action covered by this section of the SCRA, the court shall grant a stay of proceedings for a minimum period of 90 days upon motion or application of counsel while the defendant is in active service. This applies where there may be a defense that cannot be presented without the defendant or counsel is unable to contact the defendant or determine if there is a defense.
If served divorce papers while on active duty, the SCRA protects the service member from having default judgment entered against them for failing to respond to the petition. The divorce can be stayed for the duration of active duty and for a limited time upon return from active duty.
If you learn about a court action shortly before deployment or receive a civil complaint while on active duty, contact your North Carolina family law attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to seek a stay of proceedings for the duration of your active duty service. You will also have an advocate on your side who will be there to make sure no adverse actions are taken while you are in service to our country.
The SCRA also provides anticipatory relief from breaches that are expected to occur before breach or default. Under the application for anticipatory relief, a servicemember may apply to the court for relief from any obligation or liability incurred before the service member's military service.
Limited Relief in Child Support Cases
The SCRA does not apply in all cases and may not stay all proceedings. For example, in a child support hearing, the servicemember may not need to be present. Instead, the plaintiff may claim that child support can be calculated without the servicemember present, based on earnings statements or other financial records. If you have any questions about seeking a stay of proceedings during deployment or other options under the SCRA, contact the family law attorneys at Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC.
At Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC, we have helped servicemembers and their families deal with civil lawsuits, family law issues, and other legal actions throughout North Carolina. Contact us today for a consultation.