The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was signed into law by President Bush in 2003. It was an overhaul of the SSCRA which had been law since 1940. The main purpose of the SCRA is to protect service members from civil lawsuits while they are on active duty and unable to adequately defend themselves. The protections of the SCRA, accordingly, apply to family law matters such as divorce, custody and support. Divorce complaints must either include a statement that neither party is a service member on active duty or be accompanied by an affidavit of non-military service. The service member has the right to waive their protection under the SCRA and still proceed if they desire to. Any waiver of rights under the SCRA must be in writing.
The SCRA provides for a mandatory stay of civil proceedings if the case does involve a service member in active duty. The stay period may be extended if necessary. An application for a stay should establish that the present active duty impairs the ability of the service member to appear and defend themselves in the civil action. The application should also indicate when the service member expects to be available to participate. A statement by the service member’s commanding officer needs to be provided corroborating the facts alleged by the service member in the application. An SCRA website is available where inquiries can be made into the active duty status of any individual.