What Is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)?
Enacted on December 19, 2003, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law that provides members of the military and their families with legal and financial protections during active duty. Its purposes, as stated in the act, are:
- To strengthen, expedite, and provide for the national defense by extending protections to United States servicemembers that will enable them to devote all their energy to the defense needs of the country; and
- To provide for temporary suspension of proceedings (judicial or administrative) and transactions that could adversely affect the civil rights of members of the military during active service.
The protections provided under SCRA apply to the following servicemembers:
- Active-duty members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard;
- Reserve component members when they are serving on active duty;
- National Guard component members when they are mobilized for more than 30 consecutive days under federal orders; and
- Commissioned officers of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on active duty.
What Protections Are Provided to Active-Duty Servicemembers by the SCRA?
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides a range of legal and financial protections and benefits for active-duty service members and their families. It makes it possible to temporarily suspend administrative and judicial proceedings and transactions that could adversely affect service members on active duty. The three main areas of protection for servicemembers under the SCRA are:
- Protection against entry of default judgments
- Stay of proceedings when the servicemember has notice of the proceeding
- Stay or vacation of execution of judgments, attachments, and garnishments
What Are the Benefits for Servicemembers and Their Families Under the SCRA?
Some of the benefits the SCRA provides for service members and their families include:
- Reduced interest rates: Creditors are required to reduce interest rates on debts and liabilities acquired before a service member entered active duty to 6%. This applies to credit card debts, car loans, business debts, some student loans, and other debts. In the case of a mortgage, the reduced rate must continue for one year after active military service.
- Foreclosure protection: Under the SCRA, no sale, seizure, or foreclosure for nonpayment of a mortgage debt incurred before active-duty military service is valid if made during service on active duty or within nine months afterwards.
- Eviction protection: Active-duty service members and their families cannot be evicted from residences for nonpayment of rent without a court order, regardless of local laws or the terms of the rental agreement. This protection applies to cases in which monthly rent is below a certain amount.
- Deferred state and federal income taxes: The IRS and state and local taxation authorities are required to defer income taxes due before or during active military service, with no interest or penalties, if ability to pay is materially affected by military service.
How Can the SCRA Impact a Military Divorce Timeline?
Two protections provided by SCRA can impact a military divorce – relief from civil judgements and stay of civil proceedings. Under the act, certain civil proceedings, including divorce and child custody cases, may be temporarily suspended upon request or by motion of the court. This can delay divorce proceedings for members of the military and their spouses.
Unless they waive their rights to do so, servicemembers may request a stay (postponement) of divorce proceedings for 90 days or more. The court may authorize additional stays. Under Florida law, proceedings may be suspended while a military spouse is on active duty and up to 60 days more. The timeline for a military divorce in Florida can vary from a few months to two years, depending on the case. If a spouse is deployed, proceedings can take longer.
How Can a Member of the Military or His or Her Spouse Get a Divorce in Orlando?
Certain requirements must be met to file for a military divorce in Florida:
- One of the parties must have resided in the state for at least six months before filing a petition for dissolution of marriage.
- One of the state-recognized legal grounds must be stated, such as irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or mental incapacity.
- Serving an active military spouse is governed by the SCRA.
In an uncontested divorce, an active-duty service member may waive his or her rights under the SCRA and allow the divorce to proceed. Military retirement benefits, medical benefits, survivor benefits, child custody, and financial support must be factored into the divorce. Division of marital assets and debts between the spouses is governed by Florida law on equitable distribution. Any portion of military retirement earned during the marriage is subject to equitable distribution, as well as other marital property. The court begins with the premise that distribution should be equal, unless all relevant factors justify unequal distribution.
Why Choose The Law Office of Erin Morse?
Divorce can be complicated when one or both parties are members of the military. Although the proceedings are governed by state law, some federal statutes and military regulations may apply. At The Law Office of Erin Morse, we have a thorough understanding of military issues and a history of success for our clients. Contact us at (407) 743-6059 for skilled legal representation and dedicated advocacy in a military divorce.