New York Legislature Might Repeal Law Making Adultery a Crime

Adultery crime

Over the centuries, thousands of laws have been put on the books in New York State, reflecting the priorities of the time they were passed. While some of these strictures remain highly relevant, others no longer fit the culture. With so much other business to attend to, legislators frequently don’t make the effort to repeal statutes that have fallen out of favor, figuring that a lack of enforcement effectively renders the law null and void.

One law that many legislators believe is worth striking down is New York’s 117-year-old statute making adultery a misdemeanor criminal offense. Though records indicate that only a dozen or so people have been prosecuted for this crime in the last 50 years and a previous repeal effort failed, many believe that now is the time to end the ban.

As the culture has changed and New York’s population has gotten more diverse, religious organizations supporting criminalization of adultery have lost some political power and moved on to other concerns. While some other states are also looking into repeal, there are also jurisdictions where adultery is classified as a felony crime. 

Since New York’s introduction of no-fault divorce in 2010, adultery has shifted from an issue of public concern to a private matter between individuals. Under prior law, a party seeking to end a marriage had to demonstrate their spouse committed some form of misconduct, such as adultery, in order to establish one of the legal grounds for divorce. Now, adultery is often not considered relevant as divorcing spouses seek to work out parenting and financial terms. Decriminalizing adultery would be another major step in this direction. 

Some supporters of the repeal bill believe that the threat of three months in jail for cheating on a spouse was a punitive measure primarily directed against women. Whatever motivated New York to pass the law and keep it around for so long, the lack of prosecutions would seem to indicate that it is a relic in a time when most people favor simple divorce solutions rather than drawn-out battles over who wronged whom. 

Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. focuses on achieving his clients’ goals during New York divorce proceedings while avoiding unnecessary aggravation and expense. Please call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with the Long Island divorce leader. 

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