If you're currently deployed and have received the unpleasant news that your stateside spouse has filed for divorce, you may be wondering what comes next. How can you effectively respond to these pleadings and fight for your rights when you're unable to attend court or meet with an attorney like Karen Robins Carnegie PLC? Fortunately, there are legal protections available for you that can help ensure your divorce is treated fairly by the courts. Read on to learn more about the laws governing when and how your spouse can file for divorce when you're stationed outside the U.S.
Can your spouse file divorce papers while you're deployed?
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides you with some protections when it comes to being sued in the U.S. -- for anything from mortgage foreclosure to small claims cases. Divorce is included among these lawsuits, and you'll be able to request that the case be stayed (or paused) until up to 60 days after you've returned to the U.S. This can give you time to meet with an attorney or discuss mediation with your spouse. In some cases, returning to the U.S. may even be the push you and your spouse need to reconnect, and he or she may withdraw the divorce petition.
What should you do to respond to divorce pleadings you receive while you're deployed?
Although you're protected by the SCRA while you're deployed, this doesn't always kick in automatically -- you'll still need to respond to the initial pleading to put the court on notice that the SCRA applies in your case. You'll generally be able to accomplish this by simply writing a letter to the court, indicating that you're currently on a deployment and would like to enlist the SCRA to put your case on hold until after you return. You may also want to include any documentation that indicates your projected return date.
It's important that you have a copy of this letter served to your spouse so that he or she is also aware of your request to pause the case -- failure to do so could mean that the court will return your filing as an impermissible ex parte communication, and this could allow the case to proceed if your request isn't resubmitted before the first scheduled hearing or other court action. You may want to consult an attorney or legal counsel available on base to ensure you're following all the proper procedures for your case to be stayed.