Adultery Laws In New York – All You Need To Know

by ECL Writer
New York Equitable Distribution

Adultery is considered a crime in some states in the United States, and New York is one of them. Adultery laws in New York define the act of engaging in sexual intercourse with someone other than one’s spouse as illegal. However, these laws are rarely enforced, and New York is considered one of the more progressive states when it comes to acknowledging the changing views on marriage and infidelity. In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will examine the history of adultery laws in New York, the current legal stance on adultery, and what the future may hold for these laws in the state.

Is Adultery A Crime In New York?

Yes! Having sex with someone else while your spouse is still living, or while that person’s spouse is still alive, is considered adultery, according to New York State Penal Law Section 255.17. Adultery is a class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of one year of probation or three months in jail. Although it is against the law to cheat on your spouse in the state of New York, it is unlikely that either you or your husband will be detained anytime soon. In New York State, adultery is often not penalized even if it is a crime “on the books.” However, as it may have an impact on spousal support as well as the equitable distribution of assets and debts, being the victim of an unfaithful spouse might provide you with a financial advantage in divorce court.

In New York, adultery is a class B misdemeanor. All married people should be aware of adultery’s inclusion in New York’s Penal Law, despite the fact that it appears dated to include adultery in the criminal code in this day and age when it seems like it would only be significant in marriage and family concerns. Although this criminal charge is rarely utilized, it is nevertheless permissible and carries a class B misdemeanor punishment of up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500. If you’re facing an adultery-related criminal accusation, our skilled New York criminal attorneys can assist you.

Adultery shouldn’t have been included in the penal code, according to the Temporary Commission on Revision of the Penal Law and Criminal Code. The majority of the panel members held the opinion that criminalizing adultery would not deter people from committing the conduct because such laws would not serve to safeguard the general public but instead only impose morality in personal relationships.

Others argued that making adultery a crime would undermine the authority of law enforcement because it is almost routinely tolerated by police departments. Despite these objections, the state assembly and senate kept adultery as a felony in their updated penal code, where it still is today. Even though some have attempted to claim that criminalizing adultery is a punishment for human emotion and unfairly harms women, adultery is nonetheless a crime in New York.

Does Adultery Affect Divorce In NY?

Adultery can have an impact on divorce proceedings in New York, but it is important to understand the legal framework that governs divorce in the state. New York is a no-fault divorce state, which means that the reason for the divorce is not taken into account when deciding on the division of property or the allocation of parental responsibilities. However, adultery can still impact divorce in certain ways.

Firstly, adultery can be relevant in cases where spousal support or alimony is being considered. In New York, the court can consider a spouse’s infidelity when deciding whether to award spousal support and, if so, how much to award. If a spouse has engaged in adultery and has used marital funds to support a relationship with another person, this can be taken into account when determining the amount of support that should be paid.

Secondly, adultery can impact property division in a divorce. In New York, marital property is generally divided equitably between the spouses, but if one spouse has used marital funds to support an extramarital relationship, the court may choose to divide the property in a way that compensates the innocent spouse.

Finally, it is important to note that although New York is a no-fault divorce state, evidence of adultery can still be used in a divorce case if it is relevant to other issues, such as child custody. For example, if a parent has engaged in adulterous behavior that has had a negative impact on the children, the court may take this into account when deciding on custody arrangements.

In New York State is Adultery a Reason for Divorce?

Divorce laws in New York are governed by DRL 170. (4) The act of having sexual or inappropriate sexual relations with someone other than the plaintiff after the plaintiff and defendant have been married is herein described as the conduct of an act of adultery. Anything less than sexual activity counts as adultery, and the court will not award a divorce for it. Adultery may be established through direct or indirect evidence. DRL Section 171 lists four defenses against adultery: (1) The plaintiff caused or consented to the adultery; (2) The plaintiff has pardoned the defendant, and (3) More than five years have passed since the adultery was discovered. DRL 210; (4) The claimant also engaged in adultery.

Proving Adultery Claims in a New York Divorce

Proving adultery claims in a New York divorce can be challenging, as the state is a no-fault divorce state. This means that the reason for the divorce, including allegations of adultery, is not relevant in determining the outcome of the divorce, such as property division or spousal support. However, evidence of adultery can still be used in a divorce case if it is relevant to other issues, such as spousal support or child custody.

If a spouse is alleging that their partner committed adultery, they must provide evidence to support the claim. This can include:

  • Direct Evidence: Direct evidence of adultery is rare and can include eyewitness testimony, photographic evidence, or written confessions from the adulterous spouse.
  • Circumstantial Evidence: Circumstantial evidence is more commonly used to prove adultery in a divorce case. This can include evidence of hotel receipts, phone records, or credit card statements that show a pattern of behavior consistent with adultery.
  • Admissions: If a spouse confesses to committing adultery, this can be used as evidence in a divorce case. This confession can be made in writing, orally, or in a recorded conversation.

It is important to note that circumstantial evidence alone may not be enough to prove adultery in a New York divorce case. The evidence must be compelling enough to support the allegations and convince a judge. In some cases, spouses may hire a private investigator to gather evidence of adultery, but this can be expensive and may not be necessary in every case.

Could Adultery Affect Property Division in a New York Divorce?

Yes, adultery can affect property division in a New York divorce. In New York, marital property is generally divided equitably between the spouses in a divorce. However, if one spouse has used marital funds to support an extramarital relationship, the court may choose to divide the property in a way that compensates the innocent spouse.

For example, if a spouse has used marital funds to pay for hotel rooms, gifts, or other expenses related to an extramarital affair, the court may take this into account when determining the division of property. The court may choose to award a larger portion of the marital property to the innocent spouse to compensate them for the financial impact of the adulterous behavior.

It is important to note that in order for the court to consider the impact of adultery on property division, the spouse alleging adultery must provide evidence to support the claim. This can include direct evidence, such as eyewitness testimony or written confessions, or circumstantial evidence, such as hotel receipts or credit card statements.

In conclusion, while New York is a no-fault divorce state and the reason for the divorce is not considered in determining the outcome of the divorce, evidence of adultery can still impact property division in certain circumstances. If you are considering divorce and have concerns about the potential impact of adultery on property division, it is advisable to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can advise you on your rights and options.

Does Adultery Ever Affect Custody or Child Support in New York?

Yes, adultery can potentially affect custody and child support in a New York divorce. However, it is important to note that the primary consideration in determining custody and child support is the best interests of the child.

In cases where one spouse has engaged in adulterous behavior that has had a negative impact on the children, such as exposing the children to a toxic environment or neglecting their responsibilities as a parent, the court may take this into account when deciding on custody arrangements. The court may award sole custody or joint custody with the primary caretaking parent, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

Similarly, if a spouse has used marital funds to support an extramarital relationship, this could have an impact on the amount of child support that is ordered. The court may choose to award a larger portion of the marital property to the innocent spouse, who may then be able to use those funds to support the children.

It is important to note that in order for the court to consider the impact of adultery on custody and child support, the spouse alleging adultery must provide evidence to support the claim. This can include direct evidence, such as eyewitness testimony or written confessions, or circumstantial evidence, such as hotel receipts or credit card statements.

Approaching Divorce After Adultery

Finding out that their spouse has had an extramarital affair may be upsetting for many people. However, if you’ve made the decision to divorce your spouse as a result, you should be aware that this is not a wise course of action. Divorce will inevitably cost more, and the entire process will be more unpleasant for both you and your children. Additionally, it would prevent you from obtaining an uncontested divorce in New York, which is typically far quicker, simpler, and less expensive than a conventional fought divorce.

Despite these disadvantages, you should see a lawyer if you believe that filing for divorce on the grounds of your spouse’s adultery will benefit you. To determine if it will be in your best advantage to file for a fault-based divorce, consult with a qualified local family law attorney. The kind of evidence you’ll need to prove your claims and persuade a court that your spouse’s infidelity should have an impact on choices about alimony or property division must be prepared and presented by a lawyer if you ultimately decide to go down that path.

Similar to this, whether or not you actually had an extramarital affair, if you’re the one being accused of adultery in a fault-based divorce, you’ll almost certainly need a lawyer to safeguard your interests and secure a fair result.

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