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dealing with domestic violence in the military

Sadly, many families of military members deal with domestic violence issues. While many people have tried to understand the correlation between domestic violence and servicemembers, including stress from long hours and deployments, periodic PCS assignments, making it difficult to establish roots in a community and post-traumatic stress from combat and other service required duties, the cause and incidence of domestic violence in servicemembers is not fully known.

The good news is that the military is aware of the unfortunate high correlation between servicemembers and domestic violence issues and has pre-determined consequences for servicemembers who perpetrate domestic violence (beyond those seen by other employers). The military through the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), also known as Article 15, has a process of non-judicial punishment, or even court martial in severe cases. 

Military Protective Orders

Separate from Civil protective orders, the military authorizes officers to impose conditions on servicemembers’ liberty, short of actual confinement, when servicemembers are suspected of committing certain offenses. These chain of command punishments can include restricting a military servicemember to barracks, issuing a no-contact order with the servicemember’s family members, requiring a servicemember to check in with his or her chain of command, requiring the servicemember to not leave the military installation, among other consequences. In very serious situations, the chain of command can even require pre-trial confinement. 

These far-reaching, immediate consequences have allowed a servicemember’s chain of command to quickly protect a servicemember’s family from domestic violence. The military has now formalized a process for addressing these issues through the DOD Instruction 6400.06 and a DD Form 2873 military protective order. By making a standardized protection form available to a servicemember’s family, it ensures easy access to protection, when needed.

A military protection order serves the same function as a civilian protection order or restraining order. It can be issued, even if a civilian/civil protective order has also been issued. While a civil order provides for a court date and due process for the person against whom protection is sought, a military protection order may be issued by a commander without due process or the ability to appeal or have a hearing. 

A military protective order can generally address the following issues: the facts/findings supporting the issuance of the order, reference/incorporation of any civil orders entered, a tick box for no direct or indirect contact, a requirement that the service member stay a certain number of feet from the victim and the family, an order that the servicemember move out of military quarters, an order that the servicemember not be able to possess firearms, and other specific orders as needed. 

If a servicemember’s chain of command provides for a military protective order, the servicemember must be notified in writing within 24 hours. If the service member is residing off-post, the military must further notify civilian authorities. Department of Defense instructions require that a military protective order may be more stringent than a civilian protective order, but may not be less stringent or contradict a civilian order. A military protective order remains in effect until terminated by the servicemember’s chain of command, which may include days, months or even years. Violation of the order is a UCMJ violation which may be punishable under Article 92.

Military Family Advocacy Programs

Each branch of military service has a family advocacy program designed to provide training and treatment to support domestic violence victims and to try to aid and assist the family. Some of the interventions may include training and interventions for the servicemembers including seminars and workshops to teach life skills to cope with anger or stress, to teach couples to communicate better as well as providing for individual, couples or family counseling. 

Lautenberg Amendment and Servicemember Access to Firearms

This amendment prohibits a servicemember to possess or transport a firearm if he or she has a protective order issued after a hearing where the person had notice and an opportunity to appear, where the order prohibits the person from harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner or his or her child. This further prohibits firearm possession if a servicemember is convicted of a misdemeanor related to domestic violence. The law previously provided an impediment for felony domestic violence. The military uses DD Form 2760 to determine qualification for a servicemember to carry a firearm based on a disqualifying domestic violence conviction.

Additionally, the Lautenberg Amendment has a variety of protections for military members and their family, as well as for the servicemember’s chain of command to provide guidance on how domestic violence should be addressed:

  1. Requirements that the servicemember’s chain of command must hold servicemembers accountable for their conduct;
  2. The servicemember’s chain of command must counsel the military suspect;
  3. The servicemember’s chain of command must provide victims with information concerning available services;
  4. Victims will be referred to appropriate facilities for medical and mental health treatment as needed;
  5. To ensure the victim has safe housing by removing the perpetrator from military quarters;
  6. Ensuring a safety plan is in place; and 
  7. Issuing a Military Protective Order in appropriate circumstances.

If you are a military servicemember or a spouse/family member dealing with a family law issue which concerns domestic violence, it is crucial that you have a knowledgeable and experienced family law advocate who also understands the nuances of military law so that you are both, protected and your financial future is ensured. If you are going through domestic violence issues and require a divorce, please call Pingel Family Law at (816) 208-8130 and put our military knowledge and experience to work for your family!


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