Applying the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Bench Card
Child Support and the Judiciary
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) (50 USC Sec. 501 - 596) replaced the former Soldier’s and Sailor’s Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) (1940), effective December 19, 2003. When a parent is a member of the armed forces, judicial or administrative officials should review SCRA noting the following:
- Coverage: Traditional armed forces members, reservists and members of the National Guard called to active duty for more than 30 days; also, American citizens serving in the armed forces of another country that is allied with the United States.
- Scope: Applies to both court and administrative proceedings.
- Default Orders: The court or administrative agency may not enter a judgment until after an attorney to represent the servicemember has been appointed; a stay of at least 90 days must be granted.
- Stay of Proceedings: The servicemember can apply for a stay and the application must include: (1) a letter from the servicemember stating why his or her duties prevent an appearance and when he or she will be available; (2) a letter from the servicemember’s commanding officer stating that the current duties prevent an appearance and that leave is not authorized. If the required documentation is provided, a stay of at least 90 days must be granted. A request for stay does not constitute an appearance for jurisdictional purposes and does not constitute a waiver of any substantive or procedural defense.
- Continuing Stay: A servicemember may ask for a continuing stay by submitting the same type of documentation as required for the initial stay; if denied, the court or agency must appoint an attorney to represent the servicemember’s interest.
- Waiver of Rights: A servicemember may waive his or her SCRA rights, which must be in writing.
- Representation: A servicemember who cannot appear and does not wish to waive his or her rights can appear through a representative who is an attorney or possesses the power of attorney.
For the provisions in the SCRA that affect child support enforcement see The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
(DCL-04-26). If a servicemember is not meeting a support obligation, an income withholding order should be sent to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Various SCRA websites are available using an internet search engine. A Judge’s Guide To The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is also available.
To secure medical coverage for children of a servicemember, the child must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). For information on TRICARE, which is the health care program serving active duty servicemembers, National Guard and Reserve members, retirees, their families, survivors and certain former spouses worldwide, see TRICARE.
Also, A Quick Guide to Working with the Military as an Employer was updated in January 2011.