The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) effective December 19, 2003 modifies the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940. A significant change in the SCRA that has a substantial impact on Child Support Services (CSS) is the scope of its applicability. Unlike the previous Act, the SCRA is applicable to administrative proceedings in addition to district court proceedings. As in the original Act, the SCRA does not apply to criminal proceedings. The SCRA is not applicable to all actions and most actions require the servicemember to take some affirmative step to invoke its protections.
Members of military service on active duty
The SCRA applies to members of the uniformed service on active duty including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Also included are members of the National Guard called to active service, certain members of the Public Health Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For members of the Reserves are also afforded the protections of the SCRA when ordered to report for active military duty. The SCRA also extends relief and protections to U.S. citizens serving with the military of other countries if their service is similar to military service. The relief and protections terminate on the date of discharge or release from such service.
Determining Military Status
The first step is to determine whether the noncustodial parent (NCP) is in the military service. One source of this information is a web site maintained by the Defense Manpower Data Center. Each office can gain access to this site to quickly determine whether someone is in the military. This service does not have information on members of NOAA or the Public Health Service. Other sources of information include the Federal Case Registry (FCR), direct questioning of the custodial person (CP) and a review of the application and/or paternity questionnaire.
Application of SCRA to Custodial Person (CP) who is Servicemember
If the CP is determined to be in military service, the CP is afforded the same rights under SCRA as the NCP. The CP/servicemember who fails to cooperate with CSS may be treated as non-cooperative for non-compliance. In cases where the CP/servicemember is in default, the same default procedure for the NCP/servicemember applies.
Application of SCRA to Specific Actions
A list of possible actions that CSS offices may take to establish and enforce child support. Those actions in the “Yes” column involve court hearings or resulting orders that may be stayed by the SCRA. The actions in the “No” column can occur without further court involvement and the SCRA does not apply. This does not mean that these actions never result in hearings. One of the primary powers of the SCRA is to stay further hearings. For example, it is unlikely that the NCP will request a hearing to object to a CSS action then ask that the hearing be stayed. Please note that the decision to indicate whether or not the SCRA applies to an action was made by the attorneys on the SCRA PIT based upon their best judgment and the pure text of the SCRA. These decisions may change as the provisions of the SCRA are interpreted by various courts.
Application of SCRA to Specific Actions SCRA Applies “Yes List”
- Annual Notice
- Bonds (surety)
- Civil Contempt of Court
- License Revocation
- Establishment of paternity
- Establishment of an order
- Execution, Levy, and Seizure
- Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM)
- Hearing on Assets
- Probate proceedings
- Retirement & Pensions
- Till Tap
- Workers’ Compensation Lien
SCRA Does Not Apply “No List”
- Collection Agency Referral
- Credit Bureau Referral
- Criminal Referral (state or federal)
- Income Assignment
- Medical Insurance Enrollment (involuntary)
- Passport Denial
- Redirect of Payments
- Refer Outgoing Interstate
- Tax Offset (state or federal)
- Tribal Court Referral