Does SCRA apply if the military spouse does not attend a divorce hearing?
Yes. For example, a spouse-husband is on the ground in Afghanistan. His military service would probably have a material effect on his ability to be present for the divorce. In this case, a stay would probably be granted, but this does not mean that a civilian spouse can never get a divorce, or that her husband never has to show up. Even if a stay is granted, it only postpones the litigation; it does not remove it.
If the military spouse in this case wished to contest the divorce, SCRA would probably be grounds he could use. If he did not contest the divorce, he could default by waiving his rights and let the action proceed.
Unless a court finds that a military spouse’s ability to defend or pursue action is not materially affected by his military duties, a SCRA stay can last for the duration of his service plus sixty days. According to one source, "[t]he majority of service members cannot prove they are materially affected as a result of their military service when a divorce is filed against them; however, overseas duty could allow the service member to obtain a stay of proceeding temporarily."
SCRA does not say that a military member doesn’t have to show up for trial. A court can stay (or hold off) the trial if a party’s military service has a material effect on his ability to defend the litigation, in this case, the divorce; but a court can also deny any stay requested if military service has no material effect on his ability to defend against the litigation. In many cases, courts ruled against an argument using SCRA to postpone civil litigation unreasonably or defeat it entirely.
While the military has its own rules for conduct, service members are still subject to the same civil and criminal laws as civilians.
Under some circumstances, there may be a military regulation that would allow or compel him to return to the United States. For example, there is a regulation dealing with paternity and nonsupport cases, which authorizes leave for the service member. A lawyer can investigate this issue.