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Federal law protects service members' rights in a divorce

Military families in Texas are often under a lot of stress because the time the service member must spend away from his or her family and because of frequent moves. This stress, combined with other factors, could lead military spouses to decide that getting a divorce is in their best interests. In such situations, it is important for the divorce process to run smoothly and fairly for both spouses. When one spouse is actively deployed, this can complicate matters. Fortunately, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act addresses this situation and helps protect the rights of those in the armed forces and other service members who are on active duty.

When it comes to divorce proceedings, a service member who is out of the country or otherwise on active duty may not be able to attend hearings or other important events. Because of this, a soldier or sailor may seek a "stay" of the divorce proceeding, which may defer the proceeding so long as the service member can show that he or she would otherwise not be able to protect his or her rights. A judge will determine whether there is an adequate reason for issuing such a stay based on the evidence presented by the service member. There are several factors courts will consider in such situations.

In addition, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act can also protects a service member from having a judgment issued against him or her for failing to respond to a petition for divorce or appear at a divorce proceeding. In these situations, the court will provide the service member with an attorney who will serve the service member's interests, usually by pursuing the aforementioned stay. In the situation in which a default judgment is issued, the case can be opened again if, within a span of three months after finishing active duty, the service member can show that the judgment was prejudicial and that the service member had legal arguments at their disposal in their defense.

As this shows, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is important in protecting the rights of service members divorcing in Texas and across the nation. Those in Texas with further questions about how it may pertain to them may want to seek the advice of a divorce attorney.

Source: Military One Source, "Rights and Benefits of Divorced Spouses in the Military," accessed March 1, 2015

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