All too often, the answers that I give to the questions that I’m asked are complicated and multifaceted. A question that a woman describes to me as “simple” ends up being anything but simple, after I’ve covered all the bases and explained all the possible advantages, disadvantages, things to be aware of, and vagaries of Virginia law. My answer usually starts with an, “It depends,” and then goes on into a pretty long discussion. It’s not that common that a question would have a simple yes or no answer – though it does happen.
There is one question I can think of pretty easily, off the top of my head, that has a simple, consistent answer that I rarely need very much context from the case in general in order to answer. It is this one:
Should I report his adultery to his military command?
The answer is a simple and resounding “no.” Just don’t.
I get it. You’re upset. It’s bigger than that, actually. It’s a deep hurt and a betrayal so severe that you feel broken. You want him held accountable. You’re probably angry on top of everything else. It’s a huge deal, and it can really wreck a person in a lot of different ways. I won’t go into any more detail; if you’ve been there, you know how it feels, and no amount of me describing it will make you feel any better. Suffice it to say that I understand, that how you’re feeling is both normal and justified, and that he is clearly wrong.
That being said, reporting the behavior to his command is not the course of action you should be taking at this point.
Yes, adultery is against military policy, which you’ve probably heard about a million times over. Especially if his affair was with a subordinate, his command would probably want to know.
Besides that, of course, adultery is against Virginia law. It’s a level 4 misdemeanor in the Commonwealth. It’s rarely prosecuted, but – it’s still against the law, and a person committing adultery risks criminal and civil consequences for this behavior.
Shouldn’t he be held accountable for his actions?
It’s tempting to think that he should pay for his choices, or that he should somehow be held accountable for his behavior. Really, he should be. I’m not opposed to him being responsible for his actions. What I am deeply opposed to, though, is making YOU pay any more for his choices than you already have.
In my experience, involving a husband’s military command can have a damaging effect on your husband – but it can also be surprisingly damaging for you, too.
I’ve seen husbands get kicked out of the military for adultery. It doesn’t always happen, and it may have something to do with the rest of his track record, but it can happen. As you can probably imagine, it would be difficult for him to pay child and spousal support without a job. And if his is an “other than honorable” discharge, he may have trouble finding other work, too, once he’s out of the military.
If you already had an order of spousal support in place, he may be able to modify it – depending on when the order was entered, and what the specific language of your agreement or court order provides. So, even if you wait until AFTER you’ve been to court to report him, thinking that protects your right to receive support, you may find that the financial impact on you is tremendous.
If you were the one who reported him, you may not get much sympathy from the court, either. After all, he could’ve had a job where he was able to support you and the children, and your choices led to him not being able to do that. Sure, you didn’t make him commit adultery – but it’s likely that the judge would not reward you for this choice.
The Military Pension
It’s not just spousal and child support where you might feel the consequences, either. If he’s kicked out of the military before his 20 years is up, he (and, by extension, you) loses out on his pension, too. Poof, and it’s gone. There’s no such thing as a pension earned with less than 20 years service.
Military Health Insurance
There’s also the matter of military health insurance. We had a client with a disabled child a few years back who told her husband’s command about his adultery and was kicked out – only to find that, without TriCare, she lost some really valuable services for her daughter. Her husband struggled to find work again, and she was staying at home and so not eligible for any health insurance on her own… Needless to say, it was her daughter who really suffered worst here.
There’s also 20/20/20 status to consider. If he’s kicked out, then you can’t get 20/20/20. We recently had a case like that, where our client called the command on her husband and got him kicked out after nearly 18 years in service. She was super close to reaching that 20/20/20 status – only 2 more years, since they had been married for all of his military service – but as soon as he was kicked out of the military, the clock stopped. She would no longer be eligible for permanent TriCare, something that, for her, was a pretty big deal, since she had some pretty limiting pre-existing health conditions.
My point? The consequences of this choice can be varied and far reaching. It can also be held against you in court. Whereas if he’s fired from his job for his bad acts (through no fault of your own), you could ask that income be imputed to him (meaning that he be held responsible for earning a level of income that he’s no longer earning, just because it’s not fair that you be held responsible for his acts), it’s probably unlikely that a judge would let you do that if you were the informant. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, you see. To the extent that your choices made the situation worse, or created a sort of perfect storm of consequences, you probably won’t be able to recover. For more information about court remedies, make sure to check out our article this coming Wednesday.
There’s a lot of risk involved when you report your husband’s behavior to his military command – and, perhaps more importantly, very little reward. Though I know it is tempting to hold him accountable for his actions, it’s less important than ensuring that you have the financial means to survive post-divorce. Whether we’re talking about spousal or child support, health insurance, pension, or other military benefit, you stand to lose a lot if he gets kicked out.
It may sound unsatisfying, but we often tell our clients that our goal is to make sure that he’s able to earn as much as possible – because that will translate into as much support for you as possible. For more information or to request additional information, request a copy of our military divorce book or give our office a call at 757-425-5200.