The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was signed into law by President Bush in 2003. It was an overhaul of the SSCRA which had been law since 1940. The main purpose of the SCRA is to protect service members from civil lawsuits while they are on active duty and unable to adequately defend themselves. The protections of the SCRA, accordingly, apply to family law matters such as divorce, custody and support. Divorce complaints must either include a statement that neither party is a service member on active duty or be accompanied by an affidavit of non-military service. The service member has the right to waive their protection under the SCRA and still proceed if they desire to. Any waiver of rights under the SCRA must be in writing.
A spouse is entitled to their share of the military pension no matter how insignificant. Under the 10 year rule, where the parties have been married for 10 years and the servicemember has accumulated 10 years of service, DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Services) can pay the spouse directly. When the 10 year rule has not been met the servicemember will be responsible to pay the spouse themselves. This, of course, makes it harder to enforce the distribution of the pension. A court can only award a division of a military pension if it has jurisdiction over the servicemember via residence, domicile or consent. Only disposable retired pay can be divided. This is the total monthly pay less certain deductions. The highest percentage a spouse can receive of the military retired pay is 50%. The spouse will stop receiving military pay when the service-member dies.
First Lady Michelle Obama has been promoting a law that would make it easier for military spouses to maintain gainful employment in spite of their often transient lives. The law makes it easier for military servicemembers and their spouses to transfer out-of-state occupational licenses so they can continue working in their profession without significant delay after relocating. Just last week, Illinois became the 23rd state in the country to pass the legislation.
The US House of Representatives just passed a bill that would prohibit family courts from considering military deployment as a factor when awarding custody. The bill was introduced by Representative Michael Turner, R-Ohio, and will now be headed to the US Senate for a vote. The rationale behind the bill is that individuals who are ordered into deployment by one branch of government should not be punished in the form of adverse custody decisions by another branch of government. Presently, family court judges can cite deployment as a factor in determining a custody order. The bill would only prohibit deployment as a factor if the individual being deployed cannot bring family members with them on their assignment. Further, the assignment must be between 60 days and 18 months in length.