New Adultery Rules For Military Spouses?

A woman and man pose in a deployment illustration. (U.S. Marine Corps/ Photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)
(U.S. Marine Corps/ Photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)

If marriage in the military is equal, then divorce should be equal, too. We have rules about military adultery for service members, why not have military spouse adultery rules, too?

I think it is a problem. I've spent my whole life in the Navy. I grew up in Navy housing where I saw my friends' mothers cheating on their husbands. The boat would go out and the boyfriend would come in. I remember catching my friend's mother eating lunch with another man and holding hands.

As an adult who is married to a service member, I come across spouses who are cheating on their service member and then trying to evade punishment or simply not worrying about it. While their service members are held to a higher standard than they are, these spouses know they aren't in any real danger.

I'm also in a couple of online groups for Navy spouses and some of what I see is astounding. I read posts from women who are pregnant with a child by a longtime lover or a one night stand who get online asking for legal advice to make sure their service member husbands still pay for the children. At the very least, these spouses want to make sure they come out well in the divorce -- no matter what they have done.

My husband and I were talking about one such case and he said that it isn't fair that the service member can be thrown out for infidelity when the spouse who cheats has no penalty at all.

He might have a point. While many of us live in No-Fault Divorce states in which you don't have to prove there was any wrongdoing in order to get a divorce, I do wonder whether we need some kind of new adultery rules for military spouses.

The current rules about infidelity in the services should stand. Adultery is against the UCMJ (Article 134) and for good reason. I'm just wondering what would happen if there were similar rules or regulations for spouses, too.

Why not have a rule that says that if the spouse cheats, the service member will automatically pay no alimony, get dibs on custody of the children and be completely free of responsibility for any children out of wedlock as soon as a paternity test is given?

Here's an idea: If you want to marry a service member, you have to sign a contract between you and the military agreeing that if adultery is proven, you will be coping with the terms above. If you do not sign, then you do not get the health benefits, the military commissary, the Exchange or any life insurance benefits in the event of a tragedy. If you do not agree to a no adultery clause, you cannot, in the eyes of the military, be a spouse. No DEERS. No Tricare. No SGLI.

Adultery and the resulting divorce take a toll on our military by taking a toll on the wonderful men and women who serve. Expectations of good conduct and forthrightness should cut both ways. Maybe such a contract would deter some people from marrying or keep some people honest. At the very least, it would be fair to the men and women in uniform. Let's deter adultery and make it clear that a few bad apples don't represent military spouses as a group.

Lisa McLemore is a poet with five cute rabbits, one cute baby, and one cute Navy husband.

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