All family law cases start with a jurisdiction analysis. And a family law jurisdictional case analysis is often more complex than other types of civil litigation. Add a servicemember (with his/her mobility to the mix) and this analysis becomes even more complicated. It also can be missed, resulting in problems. The initial case review depends on what is happening (e.g., original dissolution of the marriage action, paternity determination, post-decree child custody modification, post-decree child-support modification, international child abduction, domestic abuse, etc.). If you are called on to represent a servicemember, you must gather enough initial information to determine the nature/type of the pending family law proceeding. Further, you must make an initial determination on whether or not to invoke the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. §§ 3901 – 4043, formerly 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 501 – 597b). As family law attorneys, we often believe that just understanding state laws, practice, and procedure is enough to get by; however, this is not the case when a party is in military service. The SCRA is where the real rules of engagement are located.
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