An active duty servicemember in the U.S. Army left his beloved automobile with his mechanic when he was transferred to England. The mechanic was later evicted from his place of business and all cars on the mechanic’s lot were towed. The servicemember contacted the towing company and informed them that he was on active duty, stationed overseas. However, the towing company was unsympathetic and informed the servicemember that he would have to remove his vehicle and pay all impound fees or it would be sold at auction. Without a court order, this sale violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The servicemember informed the towing company of his rights under the SCRA and provided proof of his active duty status. Despite this, the towing company sold the vehicle two days later. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project referred the servicemember to a pro bono attorney who filed a complaint in federal court on the servicemember’s behalf, demanding damages and attorneys’ fees under the SCRA. The towing company, eager to settle, contacted the attorney to agree to a settlement and dismiss the lawsuit. This case illustrates how the SCRA protects the legal rights of servicemembers, who may not always be aware of their rights without legal assistance.
An Air Force servicemember could not afford the mortgage payments on a home he was awarded after a divorce so he tried to negotiate modification of his mortgage loan; the bank refused. The servicemember then vacated the home and unsuccessfully tried to sell it. The home was ultimately foreclosed upon and the servicemember was sued for the homeowner association fees, served with court papers and received discovery requests as part of the lawsuit; however, because he was unrepresented, he failed to respond within the required time. Fortunately, the ABA Military Pro Bono Project was able to connect the servicemember with a pro bono attorney who assisted with his responses as well as the filing of additional pleadings. As a result, the lawsuit was dismissed and the plaintiff will be forever barred from suing the servicemember on the same claim. The servicemember was extremely appreciative of the pro bono legal assistance that he was provided.
A Navy servicemember who is a single mother and primary caregiver for three children received a transfer order that required her to move away from her children’s servicemember father. The father, who also received an order to relocate, requested permission to move with the children to his transfer location which was approximately 1,500 miles away from where the mother was being transferred. In order to maintain stability for her children, the mother needed to request primary custody of them and permission to relocate with them to her new transfer location. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project connected the mother with a pro bono attorney to assist her in obtaining this challenging legal remedy. After many hours of preparation, the attorney represented the mother at a hearing in which the court ruled in the mother’s favor, granting her petition for relocation, awarding her primary physical custody of the children during the nine-month school year, and granting the father custody during summer vacations. The father’s counsel soon filed an appeal, to which the pro bono attorney prepared an appellate brief in response and presented the mother’s position at oral argument which again resulted in a favorable finding for her. In addition, while the appeal was pending, the pro bono attorney petitioned the court to modify the mother’s child support order to reflect the new custody arrangement, which resulted in her receiving nearly a $1000/month increase in child support payments. The attorney and his associates, who traditionally incur a high billing rate, generously contributed a significant amount of pro bono time to secure a much-needed result for this servicemember.
An Army servicemember had been stationed in a different state from his children and his wife would not allow him child visitation. As a result, the soldier wished to obtain a divorce with shared legal custody and a visitation order that coincided with his military duties. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project connected the servicemember with a pro bono attorney who generously provided an extraordinary number of hours to assist the servicemember. This attorney assisted in guiding the servicemember’s ex-spouse to obtain her own attorney, resolved alleged child support arrears which proved unfounded, and negotiated, drafted and arranged for a divorce settlement with an emphasis on maintaining contact with his child while on duty and during deployments.
An Air Force servicemember sought temporary guardianship of her 16 year-old niece who had been abandoned by her parents. The matter presented some unusual procedural hurdles since the servicemember had been located in Italy and her niece had been located in Georgia. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project connected the servicemember with a pro bono attorney who assisted the servicemember by filing letters of guardianship with a Georgia probate court. As a result, the servicemember was able to gain custody of her niece who was thereby allowed to relocate to Italy so she could live together with her aunt in a stable home.
An Air Force servicemember borrowed money from a relative and later repaid the loan. However, his relative filed suit against the servicemember for $10,000 plus attorney’s fees while he was deployed, so he was unable to provide documentation about his repayment to the court. The servicemember needed legal assistance to recover funds that were being garnished from his bank account due to a default order granted during his deployment. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project connected the servicemember with a pro bono attorney who represented the servicemember and his wife at trial. The court entered judgment against the servicemember for only approximately $500 without assessing fees and in favor of his wife, while awarding her costs against the Plaintiff.
An Air Force servicemember’s former husband had been incarcerated for several years from a conviction that involved abuse of his children and others. Fortunately for the children, the servicemember’s current husband had been acting as their father figure and wanted to pursue a step-parent adoption. The soldier’s husband sought pro bono help with the ABA Military Pro Bono Project which connected him with a pro bono attorney to assist him. The attorney successfully finalized an adoption which will give the servicemember and her children a stable family unit and allow the current husband to adequately care for the children in case the servicemember is deployed or is otherwise unavailable due to military service. Click here to read more from the servicemember’s perspective.