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Establishing paternity and knowing your rights if you're deployed

The challenges a deployment present a soldier depend heavily on that soldier's situation. Take for example a soldier, recently divorced or separated from their child's other parent. For an individual in this situation, challenges can go beyond missing time with a child. A deployment can also mean missing important court dates or not being able to address court actions when needed.

In a situation such as this, it's easy to see why a soldier might have concerns about their parental rights, especially if paternity has yet to be established. In many cases, soldiers are unaware of the powerful protections they have under the law, particularly in child custody cases. In this post, we'd like to point out the protections afforded to soldiers with paternity issues.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

First passed by Congress before the start of World War II as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) has evolved into a powerful piece of legislation that protects service men and women from certain judicial proceedings during times of deployment, military service and overseas tours of duty.

One area of judicial proceedings in which servicemembers have protections is when handling family law matters, such as paternity or child custody disputes.

Stay of proceedings

Among other things, the SCRA gives deployed servicemembers the opportunity to request a stay of proceedings due to their inability to properly respond to a paternity action. The stay, under the SCRA, may be no less than 90 days in length and can last as long as the situation is affected by military service.

A stay of proceedings can be incredibly helpful to deployed soldiers as it allows them to focus on their duties instead of worrisome court proceedings. It also gives the soldier time to properly respond to the paternity action when the deployment is over.

Stay of execution

This part of the SCRA is particularly beneficial to parents who have established paternity prior to notice of deployment, but have yet to enact a custody and visitation agreement. The deployed soldier can request a stay on the court action that will allow the original custody arrangement to continue once the arrangement is no longer affected by military service.

Understanding the law and your rights

Understanding your rights as a soldier can be a challenge, especially if you're not made aware of the protections afforded to you under the law. As such, it's important to remember that you can always reach out to an attorney with experience in military family law as they are your best resource when it comes to getting straightforward answers about your situation.

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