If either party to a marriage or other family law matter is an active service member, there are protections in place that may prohibit the action from going forward without them. This protection is under the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act of 2003 (formerly known as Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940) . The purpose of this is to allow individuals to serve our country without the worry of legal actions occurring where they are unable to participate. Included in this are all civil actions, including divorce, paternity and child custody.

If a service member comes home from active duty and finds that a judgment was entered in court without their consent or knowledge, the service member may be able to have the judgment voided. If the service member finds out that some legal action has started, they are able to request a stay, forcing the court action to be postponed.

This act can protect service members from having to make important decisions when they are not fully able to devote attention to the matter. Both parties’ military status is required to be disclosed at the start of any legal proceedings, so the court will be on notice from the start if there are special issues in your case. For more information on this act, visit the Department of Defense’s website.