Consumer Alerts

    Handling Court Proceedings During Active Military Duty


    May 11, 2016

    Some military service members could find themselves facing bankruptcy, foreclosure or other civil court proceedings, including child custody or visitation challenges, while they are on active duty. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) gives active duty military members a right to postpone those proceedings for at least 90 days.

    The SCRA also provides protections against default judgments when a defendant does not appear in court because of military service. If a default judgment is entered against an active duty military member or within 60 days after being released from service, the judge must appoint an attorney to represent the service member’s interests. The service member can request the court reopen the case while still on active duty or within 90 days of his or her return.

    Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate members of the U.S. military about the court protections they are provided under the SCRA.

    “These brave members of our military protect us each day, and it is our duty to protect them back home,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It is important that service members have the opportunity to defend themselves and be notified of any civil proceeding filed against them, and that is what this section of the SCRA does.”

    Military service members must request the original 90-day postponement, and they can also request the postponement be extended. Rutledge released the following tips on what the request to the court should include:

    • A letter, formal memo or an email addressed to the court
    • An explanation of how military duties materially affect your inability to appear
    • A date that you would be able to appear
    • A statement from your commanding officer about duties that are preventing your appearance in court and that military leave is not authorized at the time of the court’s request.

    Service members can show their service materially affects their ability to appear in court by proving that their ability to defend the suit is impaired by military duties that prevent them from appearing at the designated time and place or from assisting in the preparation or presentation of the case.

    Protections under the SCRA do not apply to criminal proceedings.

    For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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