Adultery is a crime (but don’t expect a conviction)

It’s commonplace for the adulterous behavior of elected officials, celebrities and public figures to grab headlines. While it doesn’t have the tawdry sizzle that it did even a few years ago when our governors got into trouble, adultery is still considered a crime here in New York. This is something to consider next time the adulterer admits to the deed but says something to the effect: I didn’t break the law.

Adultery in New York

Section 255.17 of the state penal law defines adultery as engaging in sexual intercourse with another person at the time of being married to a living spouse. You can also be charged if you are single but your partner is married. It is a class B misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Charges are exceedingly rare

While countless angry spouses fantasize about pressing charges when they find out about marital infidelity, an article in the New York Times points out that about a dozen people have been charged with adultery in New York since the 1970s. Nevertheless, the fallout for married couples is still substantial, particularly during divorce proceedings.

Still grounds for divorce

Since it falls under the category of cruel or inhuman treatment, adultery (along with abandonment and refusal to have sexual relations) are grounds for divorce here in the Empire State. Proof must come as testimony from a third party who is not involved the action -- real life detectives commonly do this kind of work just as hundreds of detectives have in movies, television shows and books.

A lawyer will be more useful than a detective

Incriminating evidence can certainly make the other side squirm, but a good family law attorney will be much more useful in making sure that your personal and legal rights are protected in light of an infidelity.

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Keith B. Schulefand, Esq.
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