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Servicemembers Civil Relief Act: Reopening of Proceedings

The Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) generally gives service members protection from default judgments—judgments made in the absence of the defendant—by allowing service members to obtain stays of proceedings. That way, cases against service members may not proceed in the service members’ absence. (For more information on stays of proceedings, see Service members Civil Relief Act: Stays of Proceedings). However, sometimes court cases go on in the service member’s absence, despite the stay provisions of the SCRA. What, then, can be done if a service member finds out that while he or she was serving the nation, a judgment was entered that is now due and payable? In such a case, the SCRA allows the service member to ask the court to reopen the judgment in order for the service member to defend against the lawsuit.

       In order to get the court to reopen the judgment, the judgment must have been entered while the service member was in military service or within 60 days after termination or release from service. Furthermore, the service member must be able to persuade the court that he or she had a “meritorious or legal defense to the action or some part of it,” and that his or her military service prejudiced the service member in defending against the lawsuit. The service member must apply for the reopening of the judgment “not later than 90 days after the date of the termination of or release from military service.

Note, however, that this procedure is unavailable to a service member who unsuccessfully applied for a stay of proceedings under Section 522.

If you are a service member facing a default judgment, do not try to contest it on your own. Consult the Law Office of Lori A. Michaud, P.C., for assistance regarding your case.


An outstanding job on my case to have custody, visitation and support decided in my home state instead of Virginia after I separated from military service.- A.E.