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Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

More members of the armed forces are being called to serve overseas, and Congress has recently updated a World War II-era law to better protect their interests. This law, called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), is intended to prevent financial and other hardship that might result when a member of the military is called to active duty.

The SCRA affords a number of different kinds of protection for servicemembers and their families. One provision allows servicemembers to break leases for cars and residences if they are being deployed or otherwise permanently changing their duty station, freeing servicemembers from the obligation to pay for a car or an apartment that is no longer needed. If they choose not to break their lease or give up the property, the SCRA also provides some protection against foreclosure and eviction, allowing the proceeding to be delayed or the event halted until the servicemember returns home.

Other provisions limit the liability of servicemembers for fines and penalties found in contracts they signed before their deployment, and can reduce the interest rate on loans while they are gone. Although the SCRA generally does not permit the complete cancellation of debts (and money that has been borrowed must usually be repaid), it often does allow those called to active service to delay repayment.

The SCRA allows servicemembers to delay court proceedings and even to have judgments taken against them set aside, if their military service prevents them from defending themselves in court. Similarly, the SCRA can extend the limitations period of claims the servicemembers may have until their service is done, so they will not have to worry about filing suit while on active duty.

In addition to protecting persons actually serving in the military, the SCRA often also protects anyone else who is liable with them, including members of their immediate family. However, it is important to remember that the provisions of the SCRA are not "self-executing," that is, they usually require the servicemember or a family member to at least give notice that they are protected by the Act. This is because landlords, banks, courts, etc., often have no way of knowing whether someone has or has not been called to active duty with the military.

The SCRA applies only to agreements that were signed before the servicemember received the orders calling him to active duty, and governs almost all civil proceedings, although not criminal cases.

Although sometimes complex and often requiring action or notice by certain deadlines, the SCRA represents an important legal protection for those who "answer their country's call." Details regarding the SCRA are available from the Judge Advocate General's Legal Assistance office at any military base.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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