Will adultery while in the military lead to a court-martial?

On Behalf of | Jan 7, 2022 | Military Law

Military service strains even happy marriages. Long times apart combined with a very stressful job can lead to a breakdown of the marital relationship and one or both spouses trying to meet their needs with someone else. Although adultery is common and usually not criminal, people in the military could face serious penalties for an extramarital affair.

Military service members get held to a higher standard than the average person. While most spouses who cheat might just face divorce as a consequence for their actions, someone who cheats while serving in the military takes far more risk than their civilian counterparts do.

Could an active-duty military service member face court-martial for an extramarital relationship while in the service?

Yes, the military has internal rules against adultery

Only a handful of states still have laws on the books criminalizing adultery, but those serving in the military are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), not just state and federal laws.

It is possible for active-duty service members to face court-martial over accusations of sexual infidelity. The UCMJ has specific rules prohibiting extramarital affairs by those in the military. Although the law previously only applied to heterosexual intercourse, same-sex relationships and non-penetrative sexual intimacy may now also put someone at risk of adultery accusations when serving in the military.

Typically, there will need to be credible evidence backing up such accusations. Additionally, for the military to take punitive action, there will usually need to be secondary factors that make the case significant to the military chain of command.

What issues might make adultery a more serious matter?

Numerous elements can influence how seriously the military takes allegations of marital infidelity. If the other individual is also an active military service number, that may make the allegations and potential consequences more serious.

If evidence shows that service members used military resources to conduct their affair or ignored their duties by conducting their affair while on the job, those elements may make the allegations and the possible penalties more serious. Typically, an angry ex making accusations with no documentation won’t result in a court-martial. However, a provable extramarital affair that had an impact on your job performance could lead to a court-martial.

Learning more about military law when facing accusations or a potential divorce can help you plan to protect yourself.