Life Happens: Legal Assistance and Paperwork for Service Members and Families

Hand stamping paperwork

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

You know the drill: Paperwork comes with the military. It also comes into play for legal protections in both your professional and personal life. Hassles can arise when something happens and you don’t have your paperwork in order.

In certain cases, you may need a military lawyer for advice or representation. Military OneSource can help connect you to the legal assistance you require. Call 800-342-9647.

Organize your life: Legal paperwork helps you be prepared

There are some legal documents every service member — and citizen — should have:

Last will and testament. A will lets you decide what happens to your property in the event of your death. Otherwise, the courts will decide for you, and likely impose a fee for doing so. A will is often the principal document in an estate plan, in which you determine what happens to your money, real estate, investments, Social Security, life insurance and business interests. If you have a will, consider updating it based on your family’s current needs.

Power of attorney. This document allows you to name a trusted person to act on your behalf on legal or money matters while you’re deployed or otherwise unable to represent yourself. It permits them to do your banking and buy or sell property, among other transactions.

Living will. With a living will, you can declare ahead of time what medical treatment you want — or don’t want — should you suffer a serious injury or illness that leaves you unable to make such decisions for yourself.

When life gets messy: Know your legal options

Sometimes things happen in life and you need legal help. You can contact your legal assistance office for more information on many issues, including:

Divorce. Typically, divorce is governed by state and local laws and procedures, but being in the military can present issues specific to the services ─ ranging from affecting military benefits such as housing to supporting family members upon separation. Understand your rights and obligations.

Child custody and adoption. Legal assistance can be helpful in several situations involving children. These can include preparing a family care plan that can help provide direction to the person caring for your children when you deploy. And if you adopt a child in another country, be aware that you will have to follow up with paperwork and additional steps in the United States as well when you return stateside.

Other legal matters. There are a range of other issues — from reporting crimes to alcohol and drug offenses — for which you’ll need legal assistance or representation. Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator to find your nearest legal assistance office.

You can seek assistance from military defense counsel if you’re facing administrative discharge or criminal prosecution by the military. Military defense counsel are certified judge advocates who provide independent legal representation and confidential legal advice for service members suspected of an offense or facing adverse administrative actions.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Writing a Last Will and Testament

Service member gives legal counsel

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Although writing a last will and testament is not required, it is recommended that service members and their families have wills, even if they do not have children or valuable property. A valid will is a legally binding document that ensures your wishes are carried out after your death. If you haven’t created one already, here are several reasons why you should consider preparing a will.

Importance of the will

If you own property, you’ll want to determine who receives ownership in the event of your death. Your estate may increase in value after mortgage replacement or general appreciation, for instance, but if you don’t have a will, you won’t have a say in how it gets divided.

A will is needed to establish legal guardianship. As a parent, a will allows you to determine the appropriate guardians for your children. Without one, a judge will choose guardians for your children and determine who raises them.

When you can write and update a will

Any person age 18 or older who is of sound mind can write a will. But keep in mind that if you write a will under life-threatening circumstances, it could be challenged. And if you do not write your will personally, but rather a friend or family member writes it for you, your will could be challenged or revoked. An attorney at your legal assistance office can help you draw up a will and any associated estate-planning documents.

You can change your will at any time, as long as you meet certain conditions, such as rewriting the entire will or using an amendment called a codicil. You may want to update your will with your attorney if:

  • You get married or divorced
  • A birth or death in your family affects your plan
  • You have a large increase or decrease in the value of your property
  • The person you name as executor, guardian or trustee dies or becomes unavailable to serve
  • The laws associated with estate taxes change
  • You change your state of legal residence
  • You wish to change how you want your property distributed

Make the right preparations for your family and estate. Your legal assistance office can help you create a will that suits your desires and needs. If your legal assistance attorney isn’t able to provide the help you need, they can likely help you find a civilian attorney.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

What to Expect When Meeting With Your Lawyer

Female soldier giving counsel

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Knowing what to expect when you meet with an attorney can make your meeting more productive and efficient. Get the most out of your time together by following these tips before and during your meeting.

  • Come prepared. Bring all papers and documents related to your situation. If you aren’t sure whether or not to bring something, bring it just in case.
  • Be honest. Speak openly to your lawyer about your situation, and tell him or her everything you know. The only way you can get accurate legal advice is if you tell the full story to the best of your knowledge.
  • Understand privileged communications. Any information you provide to your attorney is private and privileged under law. This is in accordance with professional guidelines and rules of conduct. Your lawyer can’t disclose the contents of your meeting to anyone. If you give your lawyer specific permission to tell someone, then he or she may do so. However, there are a few exceptions to privileged communication. For instance, if the information you reveal suggests that harm could come to you or someone else.
  • Expect advice and discussions only in person. Your attorney likely won’t discuss cases or give advice over the phone or by email. This is for your privacy and protection.
  • Seek advice before you have a problem. It can sometimes be easier to prevent a legal problem before it happens than to solve an existing one. Don’t hesitate to seek legal advice before you act.
  • Understand that some legal services may not be available. Attorneys at a legal assistance office may not be able to help with your particular situation. Their services are intended to address personal, civil and consumer matters. Some issues are outside the scope of legal assistance. However, a legal assistance attorney can refer you to civilian counsel to handle those matters.
  • Be aware of potential costs. Although most services within a legal assistance office are provided at no cost to service members, you’ll have to pay any court or agency fees. You may also need private civilian counsel. If so, ask your legal assistance attorney if your case qualifies for pro bono representation under the American Bar Association’s Legal Assistance for Military Personnel.
  • Know your attorney. Your legal assistance attorney will be either a military judge advocate or a civilian attorney authorized by the judge advocate general to provide legal assistance, such as advising clients on personal legal affairs.

Where to find legal assistance

  • Legal assistance offices — These are located on almost every installation and ship. Use the Armed Forces Legal Services locator to search by branch of service, state or ZIP code.
  • MilitaryINSTALLATIONS — Search for a “Program or service.” Choose from “Legal Services/JAG.” Find your installation, and select “Legal.”

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Military Legal Resources Available to You

Hand stamping paperwork

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

When legal issues arise, service members and their families have a number of free resources at the ready. Legal assistance is available whether you need an expert to review a contract or help with estate planning. If you need to finalize deployment-related legal documents, legal assistance can help. You can also get advice on mediation for child custody. Here are some of your options.

Free legal help from the legal assistance office

Your installation’s legal assistance office can serve you in many situations where you may need legal advice. They may also help in completing legal documents. Representation in court is not available for service members or family members. However, active and retired service members and family members are eligible for free legal assistance, including:

  • Drafting powers of attorney
  • Drafting wills
  • Guiding estate planning
  • Providing family law advice (in areas such as adoption, marriage, divorce, alimony and property division)
  • Reviewing contracts and leases
  • Providing notary services
  • Offering consumer advice (ranging from debt management and credit reporting to ID theft)
  • Helping with taxes
  • Assisting in immigration and naturalization issues
  • Advising in civil lawsuits
  • Protecting service member rights and responsibilities
  • Advising clients on misdemeanors and minor traffic offenses

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act offers help with a range of rights and benefits, from interest rate reductions to eviction protection. Know your rights and available perks.

For document translation services, contact Military OneSource Specialty Consultations. You can get help translating a lease during an overseas move, or with documents such as a birth certificate or marriage license. Call a Military OneSource consultant at 800-342-9647 for document translation or legal matters.

Where legal assistance offices cannot help

There are other issues where legal assistance offices won’t be able to assist. They include:

  • Providing legal advice to third parties or opposing parties on the same issue
  • Claims against the government and serious criminal matters
  • Legal matters concerning your privately owned business
  • In-court representation (although legal assistance attorneys generally do not represent clients in court, some service branches offer the Expanded Legal Assistance Program, which allows for in-court representation in limited cases). See below for help finding a private civilian lawyer.

Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator to find the nearest legal assistance office.

Help with other legal matters: private lawyers, military defense counsel

For criminal matters or other issues not available through your installation’s legal assistance office, you’ll most likely want to consider a private civilian attorney. If you’re facing discharge or criminal prosecution by the military, you can seek assistance from military defense counsel.

Seeking nonmilitary counsel: Services provided within a legal assistance office are free. You may also need to pay for private civilian counsel. If so, ask your legal assistance attorney if your case qualifies for pro bono or reduced fee representation. If not, ask about private civilian legal representation available in your community.

Seeking military defense counsel: Military defense counsels are legal offices separate from your local legal assistance office, and are available if you are facing prosecution by the military. As a service member, you have the right to be represented at your court-martial.

Military defense counsels are certified judge advocates who provide independent legal representation and confidential legal advice for service members suspected of an offense or facing adverse administrative actions.

Military defense counsel can help you in many situations, including pretrial investigations, investigations, and administrative separation proceedings. They can also help with letters of reprimand, denial or revocation of a security clearance, and court-martial proceedings.

Each of the service branches has a different name for the defense counsel offices:

Find the contact information for your nearest defense counsel in your installation telephone directory. Your installation trial defense service office, defense services office or area defense counsel office may have a local website with helpful information.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Dealing with Military Divorce

Man sits on aircraft carrier flight deck

Deciding to end your marriage can feel like the final step on a long journey. But in many ways, divorce is just the beginning of a transition — one you need to manage well for all concerned. Military divorce has special considerations. Learn about them here.

Military lawyers and the legal side of military divorce

Understanding how the process works can help save you time, expense and emotional strain on you and your family. Military lawyers can help. You should know that:

  • State law and local procedures largely govern divorce. Some federal statutes and military regulations may apply, depending on where you file.
  • Free military legal assistance services are available to service members and families through the installation legal assistance office. Services can include:
    • Mediation
    • Separate legal assistance attorneys for the service member and the spouse
    • Advice on legal issues, including divorce and child custody, income taxes, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and wills
  • Military lawyers — called judge advocates, or JAGs — also are available to help you and your spouse understand the legal implications of your divorce. To find a military divorce lawyer on an installation near you, visit the Installation Program Directory.

Dealing with the emotional stress of divorce

No doubt about it, divorce is a challenging time. Even if you feel confident in your decision, know what support is available. Military OneSource can offer these resources:

  • Non-medical counseling: Talking to a counselor can help reduce stress and keep you mission-ready. You can access counseling face-to-face, online, by phone or by video chat.
  • Health and wellness coaching: Don’t let your basic health habits slide. Partner with a Military OneSource health and wellness coach. You may even find it healing to take care of yourself.
  • Financial counseling: Finances are likely to play a large role in your divorce. A Military OneSource financial counselor can assist you in getting your finances in order to make the process easier.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to learn more about non-medical counseling and other services, and find support for the other members of your family.

Helping your children deal with divorce

Even if your children aren’t showing their struggle outwardly, it’s important to recognize how this change in your family may be affecting them.

You can help your children adjust by supporting their feelings and using the resources available to help your family. Contact the child and youth behavioral military and family life counselors at your installation if your child needs additional support.

Effect of divorce on military benefits

Until your divorce is final, you may retain your identification card and continue to receive your commissary, exchange and health care benefits. Other benefits that will be affected:

  • Installation housing: You will typically lose installation family housing within 30 days of the service member or other family members moving out due to a divorce.
  • Moving costs: The military may pay the moving expenses of the non-military spouse returning home from an overseas duty station. The divorcing parties could negotiate the cost of an in-state move as part of the settlement.
  • Health care benefits: When you lose TRICARE benefits because of divorce, you can buy up to 36 months of temporary health care coverage through the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit program.
  • Eligible children of the service member may receive TRICARE benefits up to age 21 (or age 23 if enrolled in college).
  • Spousal and child support: Each military service has policies requiring service members to support family members upon separation in the absence of an agreement or court order.
    • These policies are designed to be temporary
    • A commander’s authority is limited without a court order.
    • You must send the court order to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service directing the government to pay monies for support or alimony.

Additional military rules and situations regarding divorce

  • The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act: A federal law that provides former, un-remarried spouses of military members with certain benefits, after a certain number of years of marriage.
  • Divorce overseas: A U.S. court may not recognize a divorce filed overseas, so it’s best to file in the United States. Learn where military divorce laws allow service members and their spouses to file for divorce
  • Abandoned spouses: Abandonment is the act of deliberately leaving one’s spouse without consent (or notification, in many cases) with no intent of returning. If your service member spouse has left you, you are still technically married, have rights and are entitled to support. Contact the legal assistance office at your installation to find out more.

Whether you’re dealing with the legal, emotional or other aspects of divorce, Military OneSource stands ready to help. Call 800-342-9647.

Obtaining and Renewing Military ID and Common Access Cards During COVID-19

Hands passing ID card

Current as of Sept. 16, 2020


Department of Defense Commitment

The DOD is committed to protecting the nation’s security as well as your safety and that of your family. This includes temporarily updating issuance and renewal processes for ID cards and CACs to ensure your continued access to health care and other benefits during this time of increased precaution and restrictions.

Your military benefits, like access to commissaries and exchanges and health care, tie into your military identification card. With current stay-at-home orders in place in most areas because of coronavirus disease 2019, you may be wondering how military ID, Common Access Card and Volunteer Logical Access Credentials issuance and renewal will work.

Review the following details to learn about the temporary updates (in place through June 30, 2021) that change issuance and renewal processes during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Renewing military ID cards (expiring on or after Jan. 1, 2020)

The DOD has expanded online ID card renewals and reissuances, enrollment and eligibility updates, and replacement of lost or stolen cards for military and their family members through June 30, 2021. Other updates continuing through June 30, 2021, include:

  • Contact your nearest RAPIDS site for assistance or schedule an appointment to renew your ID card or get a replacement if it is lost or stolen. Note that cards that are remotely issued from online application will have an expiration date of one year from the date of issuance.
  • Use your ID card if you are a mobilized reserve member, so you can continue to receive active-duty benefits for yourself and your eligible family members.
  • Use your ID card if your eligibility has not changed, and your ID is due to expire on or after Jan. 1, 2020. Your benefits are secure through June 30, 2021.
  • Do not use your ID card if your eligibility has ended. The DOD will verify your eligibility electronically before taking away an expired ID card with an expiration date on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

If your status is listed in the Individuals column of the following chart, you are eligible to continue using your current military ID while you take the step(s) noted to renew your ID card that is set to expire on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

Individuals Impact to Benefits Steps to Take
Sponsors and dependents turning age 65 You must be enrolled in Medicare Part B for continued benefits.
  1. Check milConnect to see whether Medicare Part B has been reported.
  2. Contact your nearest RAPIDS site for assistance and have the following ready:
    1. Completed DD Form 1172-2, indicating that sponsor is providing more than 50% support
    2. Proof of enrollment in Medicare Part B
Dependents turning age 21 You must be enrolled as a full-time student, be approved as an incapacitated dependent or be registered for TRICARE Young Adult for continued eligibility.
  1. Students, contact your nearest RAPIDS site for assistance and have the following ready:
    1. Completed DD Form 1172-2, indicating that sponsor is providing more than 50% support
    2. Proof of enrollment as a full-time student
  2. Incapacitated dependents, contact your nearest RAPIDS site for assistance and have the following ready:
    1. Completed DD Form 1172-2
    2. Medical Sufficiency Statement
    3. Financial Dependency Determination
  3. TRICARE Young Adult, contact your nearest RAPIDS site for assistance and have the following ready:
    1. Completed DD Form 1172-2
    2. Proof of enrollment in TRICARE Young Adult
Guard and reserve members and dependents Benefits for National Guard and reserve members and their dependents are tied to the member’s active-duty status. If the member’s active-duty status is extended, benefits are extended as well.
  1. If active-duty status is extended, no action is needed.
  2. If active-duty status is completed:
    1. Must enroll in TRICARE Select online.
Retiring service members and dependents Benefits for members who are retiring and their dependents are tied to the member’s status.
  1. Must enroll in TRICARE Select online.

Marriage and Couples

American Flag
Husband and wife hugging

Building a Healthy Marriage – This webinar will teach you how to create and maintain a healthy marriage.

Challenges Faced by Dual Military Couples – This webinar will discuss the unique challenges that dual military couples face, and how to build positive skills to meet those challenges.

Healthy Relationship Skills for Singles – This webinar will discuss how singles can clarify what they are looking for in a relationship and how they can become aware of their own pitfalls in choosing a partner. It will identify components of a healthy relationship and discuss how singles can identify signs to determine if they are ready for a long term relationship.

Principles for Healthy Relationships and Marriages – This webinar will discuss components of healthy relationships and marriages and provide useful tools to creating and maintaining them.

Recovering From Divorce – This webinar will discuss how to recover well after a divorce. This will include discussion on the stages of grief/loss and physical reactions that may manifest as part of the overall reaction to change. We will discuss positive coping strategies and impact of divorce on children.

Rights and Benefits of Divorced Spouses in the Military

Couple in mediation

Ease the time, expense and emotional strain of divorce by learning about unique legal issues due to military service. Here are some items to consider as you move through this process. Be sure to contact your legal assistance center for more information on your specific circumstances.

Military legal assistance

Free military legal assistance services are available through the installation legal assistance offices. In a divorce or family law matter, services may include:

  • Mediation
  • Separate legal assistance attorneys for the service member and the spouse
  • Advice on legal issues, including divorce and child custody, income taxes, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and wills
  • Notary services

Learn more about managing the divorce process »

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act applies to military service members and may affect divorce proceedings. Protections include:

  • A “stay” or postponement of a civil court or administrative proceeding if the service member proves he or she is unable to attend because of duty
  • Certain protections on default judgments for failure to respond to a lawsuit or failure to appear at trial

Learn more about the SCRA »

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act is a federal law that provides certain benefits to former spouses of military members. An un-remarried former spouse may receive medical, commissary, exchange and theater privileges under the Morale, Welfare and Recreation program if he or she meets the requirements of what is known as the 20/20/20 rule:

  • The former spouse was married to the military member for at least 20 years at the time of the divorce, dissolution or annulment.
  • The military member has performed at least 20 years of service that is creditable in determining eligibility for retired pay (the member does not have to be retired from active duty).
  • The former spouse was married to the member during at least 20 years of the member’s retirement-creditable service.

Former spouses may be entitled to TRICARE medical coverage if he or she meets certain requirements:

  • The service member performed at least 20 years of creditable service.
  • The marriage lasted at least 20 years.
  • The period of the marriage overlapped the period of service by at least 15 years.

Under the 20/20/15 rule, the former spouse does not have access to the military exchange, installation privileges or commissary privileges.

Effect of divorce on military benefits

You may retain your identification card and continue to receive your commissary, exchange and health care benefits until your divorce is final regardless of whether you meet the 20/20/20 rule. Here are some additional issues to consider:

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  • Installation housing — You will typically lose installation family housing within 30 days of the service member or other family members moving out due to a divorce.
  • Moving costs — The military may pay the moving expenses of the non-military spouse returning home from an overseas duty station. The divorcing parties could negotiate the cost of an in-state move as part of the settlement.
  • Health care benefits — When you lose TRICARE benefits because of divorce, you can buy up to 36 months of temporary health care coverage through the Department of Defense Continued Health Care Benefit program. Learn more through the TRICARE website. Eligible biological and adopted children of the service member may receive TRICARE benefits up to age 21 (or age 23 if enrolled in college).
  • Spousal and child support — Each military service has policies requiring service members to support family members upon separation in the absence of an agreement or court order. These policies are designed to be temporary. A commander’s authority is limited without a court order. You must send the court order to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service directing the government to pay monies for support or alimony. Learn more on the DFAS website.

Divorce overseas

A divorce filed overseas can be more complicated than if the couple files with a state.

A U.S. court may not recognize a divorce filed overseas, so it’s best to file in the United States. Military divorce laws allow service members and their spouses to file for divorce in:

  • The state where the nonmilitary spouse resides
  • The state where the service member is currently stationed
  • The state where the service member claims legal residency. This state retains the power to divide the military pension.

Some things to consider when filing for divorce while living overseas include:

  • Talk with a civilian attorney or the military legal assistance office if you own property overseas, such as a house.
  • Family members and their property can be brought home at government expense before the service member’s tour of duty ends.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Service member using notarizer

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides financial and legal protections for active-duty service members, including National Guard and reserve members, and their families. Because details of the SCRA are complicated, service members and their families are encouraged to contact the nearest legal assistance office if they need help meeting their financial obligations.

Learn more about the important SCRA benefits to take full advantage of the law’s protections for you and your family members.

Get free legal and financial guidance.

SCRA provides both financial and legal protections for service members and their families. If you feel SCRA applies to you, contact help at no cost.

Free Legal Help

Free Financial Help

Overview of SCRA Protections

The SCRA offers protections for service members and their families in many different areas ranging from mortgages to life insurance. It’s important to get professional advice on how the SCRA applies to individual circumstances. For example, the SCRA frequently makes certain rights available conditional upon whether your ability to meet certain obligations is “materially affected” by military service. Whether you are “materially affected” can mean different things in different situations.

  • Reduced interest rates — Creditors must reduce the interest rate on debts to 6% for liabilities incurred before you entered active duty. If the debt is a mortgage, the reduced rate extends for one year after active-military service. The reduced interest rate applies to credit card debts, car loans, business obligations, some student loans and other debts, as well as fees, service charges and renewal fees. Creditors can challenge this provision if they believe your ability to pay a rate higher than 6% is not materially affected by your military service. 
  • Postponement of foreclosures — No sale, foreclosure or seizure of property for nonpayment of a preservice mortgage debt is valid if made during or within nine months after your service on active duty, unless carrying out a valid court order. This can provide tremendous protections from foreclosure in the many states permitting foreclosures to proceed without involving the courts. If you miss a mortgage payment, you should contact your legal assistance office immediately.
  • Deferred income taxes — The Internal Revenue Service and state and local taxing authorities must defer your income taxes due before or during your military service if your ability to pay the income tax is materially affected by military service. No interest or penalty can be added because of this type of deferral.
  • Eviction prevention — You and your family cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent without a court order regardless of the language of your rental agreement or local laws. This protection applies to residences where the monthly rent is below a certain amount. Contact your nearest legal assistance office for the most up-to-date figures. If your ability or your family’s ability to pay rent is materially affected by your military service, you may apply to the court, and the court must either grant a 90-day delay in eviction proceedings or adjust obligations under the lease in a way agreeable to all parties.
  • Protection against default judgments — If, while on active duty, a civil action, a civil proceeding or an administrative proceeding is filed against you, the judge must appoint a lawyer to represent you in your absence. The court must grant a delay, or stay, of at least 90 days if it determines there may be a defense to the action and the defense cannot be presented without your attendance.
  • Postponed civil court matters — If you cannot participate in a civil court action or administrative proceeding because of your military service, you can request a 90-day delay, or stay, in the proceeding. You are automatically entitled to this delay if you follow all of the requirements. The judge, magistrate or hearing officer can grant an additional 90-day stay. Proceedings may include actions for divorce, child paternity and support cases, and foreclosure proceedings. This protection does not apply to any criminal court or criminal administrative proceedings.
  • Protection for small-business owners — If you own a small business, your nonbusiness assets and military pay are protected from creditors while you are on active duty. This applies to business debts or obligations.
  • Termination of residential lease agreements — You may terminate your residential lease, along with other types of leases including agricultural, professional and business, by delivering a written notice of termination. This applies if you entered into a lease and then started military service, or entered into a lease during military service and then received permanent change of station orders. It also applies when you have orders to deploy with a military unit or as an individual in support of a military operation for not less than 90 days. You must provide a written notice of termination and a copy of your military orders, hand-delivered or by return-receipt mail, to the property owner.
  • Termination of automobile leases — You may terminate an automobile lease under certain specific circumstances. Here are some examples of circumstances: You signed the lease agreement before being called to active duty, signed a lease agreement and then received permanent change-of-station orders outside the continental United States, or signed a lease agreement and then received orders to deploy.
  • Termination of phone service — You may request termination of cell phone service or phone exchange service if you entered a contract before receiving military orders to relocate for not less than 90 days to a location that does not support the contract.
  • Prevention of repossession of property — Property cannot be repossessed for nonpayment or a contract terminated for any payment gaps prior to or during your military service without a court order.
  • Life insurance coverage protection — Life insurance companies cannot terminate coverage or require payment of additional premiums if you are in military service. Increases in premiums based on age in individual term insurance is not covered by SCRA. An insurer also may not limit or restrict coverage for any activity required by military service.
  • Suspension of professional liability insurance — Professionals in health care, legal services or another profession, as determined by the Secretary of Defense, called to active duty may suspend their professional liability insurance policy by written request to the insurance carrier. Premiums for suspended insurance do not have to be paid, and any premiums paid by an individual while on active duty must be refunded. To reinstate suspended insurance, the individual must send a request to the insurance carrier within 30 days of release from active duty.
  • Voting rights in your home state — Like your tax residency, your residency for state, federal or local voting purposes is unaffected by your absence from the state due to military service. Similar protections exist for spouses.

Waivers of rights under SCRA

It is possible to waive your rights under the SCRA. Only written waivers signed during or after a service member’s period of military service are effective. If you sign a waiver of your SCRA rights before you enter military service, the waiver will be considered invalid. Whether you are considering signing a waiver document at any time, either before, during or after military service, it is extremely important to read the document carefully and sign only after obtaining the advice of a qualified attorney.