Fraternization is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It falls under a subparagraph of Article 134, and is defined by the Manual For Courts-martial (MCM). The MCM defines the "elements of proof" for the offense of fraternization as follows:
- That the accused was a commissioned or warrant officer;
- That the accused fraternized on terms of military equality with one or more certain enlisted member(s) in a certain manner;
- That the accused then knew the person(s) to be (an) enlisted member(s);
- That such fraternization violated the custom of the accused's service that officers shall not fraternize with enlisted members on terms of military equality; and
- That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.
The MCM further explains:
"In general. The gist of this offense is a violation of the custom of the armed forces against fraternization. Not all contact or association between officers and enlisted persons is an offense. Whether the contact or association in question is an offense depends on the surrounding circumstances. Factors to be considered include whether the conduct has compromised the chain of command, resulted in the appearance of partiality, or otherwise undermined good order, discipline, authority, or morale. The acts and circumstances must be such as to lead a reasonable person experienced in the problems of military leadership to conclude that the good order and discipline of the armed forces has been prejudiced by their tendency to compromise the respect of enlisted persons for the professionalism, integrity, and obligations of an officer.
Regulations. Regulations, directives, and orders may also govern conduct between officer and enlisted personnel on both a service-wide and a local basis. Relationships between enlisted persons of different ranks, or between officers of different ranks may be similarly covered. Violations of such regulations, directives, or orders may be punishable under Article 92." Specific regulations vary by different branches of the armed forces.