During your career of service, it is inevitable that you will change residences multiple times and be deployed overseas. It is also likely that you will experience financial difficulties at one time or another. This is not something exclusive to members of the military, as millions of Americans deal with some form of outstanding debt.

However, debt management for active duty soldiers is especially important given that they potentially may be served critical notices and have legal action taken against them without their knowledge because they have been deployed. Because of this, the law allows for certain legal protections.

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Relief Act (also known as the Service Members’ Civil Relief Act) is created to protect the finances of active duty members of the military while they are deployed. This allows members of the armed forces to focus on the tasks they have before them on the battlefield (or while stationed abroad) without the complications of financial issues at home.

This has important implications for service members saddled with credit card and mortgage debts, as well as civil proceedings against them as a result of such debt. Essentially, credit card companies may not charge any interest greater than six percent on debts accrued prior to their deployment. This interest rate may not be changed while a soldier is on active duty either. Further, such interest may be forgiven after the deployment ends.

With mortgage debts, the basic principles are the same. Service members may have their mortgage payments modified to a lower rate while on active duty. Also, lenders may not foreclose or take any other legal action against the property until they are released from active duty. Further, lenders cannot force service members to repay accrued interest (after being released from active duty) if it rises above six percent.

Additionally, lawsuits initiated due to such debt must also be stayed (i.e. may not proceed) until the service member returns from active duty. While the interest rate protections may be very helpful, they do not occur automatically. A service member must request them.

If you have questions about the financial protections afforded to service members, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can help.