Many would be surprised to know that, in New York State, adultery is a crime. In addition, adultery is also one of the four grounds for divorce. So, if you or someone you know is thinking about adultery, know that there are criminal law and family law implications.
New York Penal Law Section 255.17 reads, “A person is guilty of adultery when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse.” Adultery is categorized as a Class B misdemeanor.
This law took effect on September 1, 1907—in a different time and era. As with any law, it is only a threat if truly enforced by law enforcement and local prosecutors. Since the 1970s, only about twelve people have been charged under this statute, and most of them were charged with it in conjunction with other crimes and the adultery charged was eventually dismissed.
With rare enforcement of the criminal statute, the main intersection between law and adultery rests with matrimonial law. Under Domestic Relations Law Section 170, there are seven grounds for divorce in New York: abandonment for a period of more than a year, adultery, irretrievable breakdown, imprisonment, judgment of separation, separation agreement, and cruel and inhuman treatment.
There must be testimony of a third non-party, non-adulterer, when adultery is the grounds for a divorce. There are three basic defenses to adultery: condonation, or forgiveness by the spouse who didn’t commit adultery; recrimination, where both spouses committed adultery and they are “even”; and consent of the spouse who was not having an extramarital affair.
Going through a divorce can be long and emotionally difficult. Contact an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process and make sure that your rights are protected. Larry McCord & Associates, LLC is skilled and experienced in dealing with all aspects of family and criminal law matters. Call (631) 643-3084 for a consultation today.