Eventually, but generally not while they’re on active duty. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) gives active-duty military service members additional time before they have to respond to civil court cases, including divorce and other family law matters.
The point of the law is to allow active-duty personnel to focus on their mission, not on troubles at home. Therefore, under the SCRA, active-duty military personnel can assert their right to postpone most types of civil matters if having to deal with them would be “materially affected by military service.”
Who does the SCRA apply to?
- Any full-time, active-duty service member from any branch of America’s armed services, along with commissioned officers of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who are on active service
- Any military reserve personnel on active duty, including their two-week annual tour
- Members of the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard when 1) they are called to active duty or duty under 32 USC 502(f); 2) for the purpose of responding to a national emergency that has been declared by the president; 3) for a period of more than 30 days in a row
- The service member’s dependents
The SCRA applies to people who are deployed involuntarily as well as people who volunteer for active duty. You do not have to be in a combat zone for it to apply.
You do have to assert your SCRA rights
In order to delay a civil court proceeding such as a divorce action, you have to take an active step. You must tell the court that your military service would materially affect your ability to participate in your court case. You don’t have to show that you are financially affected. Judges are encouraged to apply SCRA protections whenever the military service member has shown that their service will have a material effect on their ability to deal with the court case.
If your SCRA petition is not accepted fully, the judge may still allow your hearing to be expedited or allow electronic testimony when you’re unavailable.
In addition to the SCRA, North Carolina law may offer some protections to service members in family law cases.
In the end, you may not be able to stop the divorce from happening, but asking for SCRA protection could delay it until your active-duty service is over.