Members of the United State’s military are held to a code of honor that values high moral standards. In many ways, we hold military personnel to higher expectations than their civilian counterparts. So much so that there is a chapter of law that only applies to members of the armed forces called the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Among the articles in the UCMJ, Article 134 determines that adultery – sexual activity between a married person and a person who is not their spouse – is a military offense. There are a few criteria that need to be met for this to be considered as a punishable offense by higher officers:

  • The accused military officer must have engaged in sexual activity with someone else.
  • The accused or their sexual partner must have been married at the time of said activity.
  • The conduct of the accused must have harmed or discredited the military in some way.

The first and second points are straightforward, while the final one is a bit more obscure and objective. Let’s look at what is taken into consideration when determining if the impact of a military officer’s affair is worthy of legal action.

Determining factors of adultery’s impact

When considering disciplinary action for a violation of the UCMJ, commanding officers may refer you for punishment. According to the Manual for Courts-Martial, the following factors are considered in cases of adultery:

  • The marital status, military rank, and position of the accused.
  • The marital status, military rank, and position of the accused’s sexual partner(s).
  • The military status of the accused’s spouse or sexual partner’s spouse, and any relationship to the armed forces.
  • The impact the adulterous relationship has on the ability of the accused, sexual partner, or spouses to perform their military duties.
  • The misuse of government time and resources to accommodate the adulterous affair.
  • If the adulterous relationship continued after orders to desist.

All of these factors are considered to create a big picture of the impact the adulterous behavior had on good order and discipline. Based on these factors, commanding officers will work with the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate to determine if the circumstances of the affair warrant punishment, which could include non-judicial punishment, referral for court-martial or adverse administrative actions.

Military law can be complex, and it can be difficult to pursue family law endeavors after a spouse in the military has engaged in an adulterous affair. Before filing a report, it is a good idea to consult with someone familiar with both military law and family law, so you can present the best case possible to encourage further review.