Military Divorce and the LAW

7 05 2009

military-marriageSometimes marriages survive the pressures of military life splendidly. But in general there is usually more pressure on a military marriage than on their counterpart marriages in the civilian world. There are normally higher divorce rates in the military and in particular when there are long overseas deployments. I consulted the office of Virginia Military Divorce Attorney attorney and former US Army Officer MK Murphy before writing this story.

A divorce where one person is actually in the military can have an interesting difference from a regular cilivian divorce in that the person who is in the military falls under a category of law known as the UCMJ.  The Uniform Code of Military Justice is a set of laws that pertain to active duty US Servicemen and Servicewomen.

Sometimes a military spouce can be punished for adultery under the UCMJ’s Article 134 or General Misconduct Clause. In order to meet the guidelines for this clause, the military person has to:

  1. be proven to have committed a physical act
  2. one or both parties to the act were married at the time to another person and
  3. that the act of adultery had a negative impact on the military such as fraternization between officers and enlisted or other such conduct unbecoming an officer.

A Virginia military divorce lawyer rarely has to deal with the Article 134 UCMJ possibility during a divorce proceeding. That is mainly because it is hard to prove the physical act or there is really no “discredit to the armed forced” that the situation created. There are special cases where this is a factor, but it usually leads to the officer having to resign and loose military benefits rather than any time in prison.

One case that got a lot of attention was the case of Air Force B-52 pilot Lt Kelly Flynn. She had an affair with a civilian who was married at the time to an enlisted Air Force servicewoman at the same base. With all the negative publicity and all the consternation within the ranks, this case did indeed lead to an apparent discredit to the armed forces and whatever the level of proof obtained regarding the other 2 requirements for Article 134 in this case, Lt. Flynn did resign and leave the service.

Is military punishment for adultery absurd? Not at all in my opinion as there are indeed rare cases where there should be a law on the books to protect the armed service from the negative impacts that can result. Especially in the case where the chain of command or chain of leadership is hurt or tarnished. That could lead to a breakdown in functioning.