The High Stakes of Adultery in the Military

by Aug 1, 2019

The old adage, “you learn something new every day” definitely holds true for me. I recently came across some fascinating information that felt blog-worthy, and here it is:

Military members can be prosecuted for having committed adultery.

Yep! You read that right! PROSECUTED. (Yikes.)

I’ve always felt tremendous respect for those who serve our country and was vaguely aware that military members are held to a higher standard than civilians. Aside from military benefits and how they impact divorce, I’m admittedly pretty ignorant about the ways of the military. So, imagine my surprise to learn this bit of information.

Adultery isn’t a good thing in general, but how is it viewed as a crime in the military?

Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), prohibits conduct which is of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, or conduct which is prejudicial to good order and discipline. The UCMJ has essentially criminalized adultery for two reasons. The first is to reduce the distraction and potential workplace drama that can ensue when affairs happen, which often can lead to a decline in performance for the involved party (or parties) and their coworkers. The second is to reinforce the leaders’ moral stature among those whom they lead and whose lives they risk.

So, who is the victim when adultery occurs among military members? Is it the unknowing spouse or significant other? The family ultimately divided as a result? As far as the UCMJ is concerned, it is the Military itself that is the real victim.

Generally speaking, when you have a victim and a crime, it can lead to prosecution.

How frequently are adulterers in the military prosecuted?

This depends on a LOT of variables. Certainly, the rank, grade and position of those involved will be a factor, as well as their degree of public “visibility”. Think about all the combinations there could be: an officer having a relationship with an enlisted member, a military member having a relationship with another military member of a close knit operation, or a military spouse having a relationship with a civilian who is married to a member of the military, etc.

Another factor in prosecution of adultery are the elements of proof, which must be established beyond reasonable doubt. There must be proof that the accused engaged in sexual intercourse, the accused or other person involved was married to someone else, and the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

All these elements of proof together can make a case difficult to prosecute. So, while adultery may not be frequently prosecuted, if it is discovered by a commanding officer, they have a lot of discretion as to how consequences may be doled out, such as formal reprimands, denial of promotions, performance report remarks, etc. And adultery may be more likely to be prosecuted if a military member is already being prosecuted for other crimes…it can just be added to the list.

In our divorce mediation practice, we take time to learn and consider all the factors relevant to each couple’s divorce or separation. Military divorces offer a lot of nuances in terms of financial analysis. It’s important to consider how else military involvement could be impacting parties of a divorce, beyond the financial piece. Contact us today and learn more about how we are delivering Divorce Done Differently.


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