SCRA Protects Service Members in Military Tennessee Divorce
For those in the U.S. armed forces, the SCRA offers many protections in the Memphis, Tennessee, military divorce. SCRA refers to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a federal law that applies to civil lawsuits and divorces against active duty military personnel.
Defending against lawsuits has always been difficult for deployed service members. The SCRA and its predecessor law, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), addresses the reality of war, police action, and other active duties that necessarily demand a service member’s absolute focus. We want our active duty military to completely devote their energies to the defense needs of our nation. Especially when military personnel are deployed, national defense interests are not well-served if civil legal matters back home distract the soldier or sailor from the often life-threatening tasks at hand.
Application of the SCRA to Active Duty Military, Reservists, and The Guard
The SCRA applies to active duty military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard), to reservists who have been called to active duty, and to regular National Guard and Air National Guard on federal call to duty for at least thirty (30) days. Importantly, the SCRA has application even when the active duty service member has not been deployed.
Core Provisions of the SCRA
The SCRA offers many protections to active duty spouses whose marriages have broken down, including:
● Temporary suspension of divorce and other civil lawsuits against a service member, as well as temporary suspension of administrative proceedings;
● Protection against default judgment by requiring initial judicial inquiry into military status should a defendant fail to appear in the divorce;
● Requirement that the spouse filing the divorce complaint also submit an affidavit supported by evidence affirming that the defendant-spouse is not in military service;
● The family law judge may not issue adverse orders or a default divorce decree (a final judgment) in the case against the service member who has not appeared, although that is not open-ended;
● The judge may appoint legal counsel for the covered service member who does not appear in the divorce and has no attorney to appear on his or her behalf;
● The judge may grant an automatic ninety (90) day suspension when the service member has no notice of the divorce and must be present to offer a defense, or when the divorce attorney cannot contact the client about the existence of a defense.
Should a court issue a default divorce judgment that potentially violates the SCRA, the service member may have the divorce reopened by filing a request within ninety (90) days following release from active duty. To vacate the default decree, the service member shows prejudice because active military duty materially affected his or her ability to defend against allegations in the divorce. Additionally, the service member will need to offer a meritorious defense in the case.
What won’t the SCRA do? It will not suspend criminal proceedings brought against a service member.
To learn more, see our series of pages on military divorces starting with Military Divorce Laws in Tennessee.
Memphis TN Military Divorce Lawyer
Although it is helpful to know about the existence of the SCRA and other laws affecting divorce, nothing can replace competent legal advice from a Memphis TN military divorce lawyer. The Miles Mason Family Law Group helps those stationed at the Naval Support Facility Mid-South near Millington TN, Fort Campbell (KY and TN), and the military families living in Memphis, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, and nearby communities.