Divorce and deployment: how can you do both?

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As an active service member, you face unique challenges. You move to different locations on a regular basis, and are deployed from these temporary homes to serve abroad. This is enough to make traditional family life tricky, but it becomes especially complicated when you and your spouse are considering divorce. Do you have to face divorce proceedings while deployed?


Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The government recognizes that as a service member, you have severe limitations placed on your time and attention. When you are deployed, you need to be 100 percent physically, mentally and emotionally present at that location for the good of your entire troop. But being present is difficult when your family life is suffering back home.

To protect your health and focus, the government passed the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). SCRA protects you from being sued for divorce while you are on active duty. You are also protected for 60 days following your return from active duty.

Postponing litigation

SCRA also protects servicemembers after divorce proceedings has already started. The court realizes that you are unable to adequately protect your legal interests in court when you are deployed on active duty. Therefore, you can petition the court to hold proceedings for up to 60 days after returning from deployment.

The benefits are two-fold: while deployed you can entirely focus on the task before you, and once you return you can work closely with your lawyer to ensure that you are happy with the divorce settlement.

If you would like for the divorce to finalize as quickly as possible, you may wave your right to SCRA protection and let the divorce proceedings in your absence. If you are filing for an uncontested divorce, you must wave your right to SCRA protection.

Forced return to the US

In some cases, SCRA cannot be used to postpone litigation. In select circumstances, such as a case involving paternity, you may be forced to return home in the middle of deployment in order to complete the divorce process.

Seek legal counsel

Divorce is complicated whether you are a civilian or a service member. However, being in the service comes with additional complications. Contact an attorney to determine your rights and how your status can affect divorce proceedings.