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Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The Service Members Civil Relief Act is a federal law that gives certain service members (SMs) the right to get a stay, essentially “freezing” the court case for up to 90 days. If the SM’s ability to defend the case is materially affected by military duties, the judge will enter the stay to give the SM time to properly respond.  An example of a situation that would apply is when he or she is overseas in a location that does not offer the SM any reliable way to communicate with the attorney or respond to subpoenas. When a lawsuit is filed, the person filing it must now add a signed affidavit, which is a sworn document confirming whether the other party is not in the military.

Fortunately, that may be easier than you think if you have the date of birth and other personal info because there is a website that will confirm the status of service: www.dmdc.osd.mil/appi/scra  Unless the SM makes an appearance in the case (files a response, etc.), the judge cannot enter an order without first appointing an attorney, who would protect the rights of the SM. The required NC Affidavit defines “military service” as:

Active duty service as a member of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard; service as a member of the National Guard under a call to active service authorized by the President or the Secretary of Defense for a period of more than 30 consecutive days for purposes of responding to a national emergency; active service as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service or of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; any period of service during which a service member is absent from duty on account of sickness, wounds, leave, or other lawful cause. 50 U.S.C. app. 511(2).

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