When you joined the U.S. military, you took an oath to protect and defend your country from foreign and domestic adversaries. It is a career of noble cause, and many service members enjoy the structure, routine and benefits their jobs provide. These benefits include dental and health care as well as affordable life insurance.

If your marriage ends in divorce, things can get a bit complicated, especially regarding the non-military spouse and what benefits and privileges they may still have. Child custody issues can also be complex; although as an active member of the U.S. armed forces, you are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. If you’re preparing for or currently fulfilling a deployment, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about this law and how it may apply to your situation during a time of stress for your family.

Financial and legal protection

The SCRA offers protection regarding mortgages, insurance and various issues that may arise if a servicemember is going through divorce while serving active duty. The following list includes additional information that can help servicemembers avoid much stress:

  • If you incurred debt prior to deployment, your creditors must lower your interest rates to six percent. This cap extends to one year following active duty if the debt is your mortgage.
  • Creditors can challenge the reduced rate if they believe active duty does not impede your ability to pay a higher rate.
  • If you fail to pay on your mortgage while serving active military duty overseas, the SCRA protects you against threat of foreclosure.
  • It also protects you against any sale or seizure of your property.
  • If you meet the requirements, your deployment activates an automatic 90-day postponement of any civil court action for which you are unable to be physically present. This includes any and all litigation related to divorce or child custody matters.
  • You may seek termination of a rental lease by return-receipt mail or hand delivery that includes written notice of termination and a copy of your deployment orders.

The SCRA also protects and preserves your local, state and federal voting rights while you’re away due to active duty service. Regarding divorce and child custody, in particular, you are entitled to appear in person in court to protect your parental rights and your children’s best interests.

If trouble arises while you’re overseas

Your spouse cannot litigate divorce or custody-related issues until you have returned from active duty. If you already have an existing court order, it also means that the court will make no modifications of the order unless and until you are able to be present in court. If someone violates your rights, you can seek immediate legal guidance and support by speaking with an attorney who is well-versed in the SCRA and divorce laws as they apply to U.S. military servicemembers and their families.