When someone joins the military, they agree to hold themselves to a higher standard than the average civilian. Not only do military servicemembers need to comply with state and federal laws, but they must also follow all the rules in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
One of the better-known rules in the UCMJ is the anti-adultery rule in Article 134. While only a handful of states still have laws criminalizing extramarital affairs, the military has a relatively strict approach to infidelity among servicemembers.
Do the different branches of the military still enforce the adultery rule if someone gets caught cheating on their spouse?
Yes, the military still enforces the adultery rule
Although social morals have changed in recent decades, the military still expects that those who receive extra pay and benefits for their spouse and children will remain committed and faithful to that marriage.
Servicemembers who get caught cheating could face a court-martial. Certain situations make it more likely that they will face consequences for their infidelity. Those circumstances include when the other person is also a member of the military or sexual encounters occurred while someone was technically working.
What constitutes adultery?
For a servicemember to face career or criminal penalties for adultery, they have to violate the specific written rule that has recently changed. They or their partner must be married, there must be a physical sex act and it must impact the good order or discipline in the armed forces.
There was a time when only heterosexual vaginal intercourse constituted adultery for the purposes of military rule enforcement. However, other sex acts and same-sex intimacy may now qualify as adultery under the updated rules even if procreative sexual intercourse does not occur.
The adultery rule does offer leniency in another area to balance the broader definition of adultery now used. Specifically, formal separation can protect someone from adultery accusations. Even if a divorce is not yet over, a separation can protect a servicemember from a violation of the adultery rule.
Those accused of adultery will have the same opportunity as those accused of other offenses to defend themselves. Understanding the military criminal justice process can help you defend your reputation and your military career.