Previous blogs addressed the SCRA’s protections for the servicemember in a Wisconsin divorce or family court case. This blog will discuss ways for the non-military spouse to oppose a request to delay the case.
Although the SCRA is designed to protect the member, it cannot be a license to delay a case indefinitely. The spouse also has a right to at least a reasonably timely resolution.
Recall that in order to receive the stay, the servicemember must demonstrate that his/her duties prevent “meaningful participation.” The spouse need not simply accept a blanket statement, but ensure that the member met the requirements for a stay. For example, can the member participate by phone or video? Did he/she provide the letter from the commanding officer per the SCRA? Is leave available to permit participation?
The type of hearing involved is also relevant. A simply revision of child support should be relatively brief, and could even be handled by written submissions. A revision of child placement to grant the civilian parent temporary sole placement should not be an issue if the servicemember is completely unavailable overseas–in such a case, there is probably no other choice but to place the child with the civilian parent until the member returns.
The civilian spouse is entitled to a hearing on a stay request. The civilian spouse may then:
- Demand an affidavit from the member stating specifically how military service prevents his/her participation, work/duty hours, etc.;
- Obtain documents, such as a leave statements, to verify leave availability;
- Clarify what the member actually contests. There is no reason to delay all aspects of a case if some (for example, child custody or support) are not disputed.
- Demand regular updates from the member on changed circumstances permitting participation.
We will continue exploring the SCRA in the next blog.
Attorney David Kowalski routinely handles military divorces for both servicemembers and their spouses. Contact me at 608-709-5000 with any questions.