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As a service member, you cherish the time you spend with your children. But when you share them with your former spouse, you may worry about how active duty can affect a custody arrangement.

When you are thousands of miles away from home on a military base, you can’t be available for a court hearing. And if your ex-spouse waits till you’re gone before filing for a custody modification, you may worry about defending a challenge. However, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects your rights to a fair hearing.

Active duty keeps you from court hearings

When you go on active duty, you cannot take time off to be present for any court hearings. Your former spouse may take advantage of this and try to change your custody arrangement while you are away. But if you can’t be present for the hearing, the SCRA allows you to postpone it.

Delaying civil court action for 90 days

The SCRA has many different protections for you as a member of the U.S. military. When you go on active duty, the act gives you a way to delay any civil judgment. If anyone brings a civil court action that affects you, you can ask for a 90-day stay.

Since your spouse must bring a civil action to the court to change custody, you can ask the judge to wait three months before starting the proceedings. This delay gives you time to respond to the change in the custody arrangement and make sure either you or your attorney is present for the hearing.

Ensuring you can have representation in court

When you are on active duty, your main focus is your orders. And with limited access to communication, you may not have the time or ability to respond to a civil action. But by delaying the proceedings, you can ensure that you or someone who represents you can fight any change to your time with your children.