Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Provides Protections for Active Duty Military

Posted by Josh Valentine | Jul 18, 2019

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.  

Anticipatory Breaches

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.

About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar