Is Adultery a Crime in New York?

Westchester County Divorce Attorney

As a New York State divorce lawyer with offices in White Plains, Westchester County, I am always asked about the different grounds for divorce. In order to obtain a New York divorce, a spouse needs to have a reason to start the divorce process this is also known as the grounds for the divorce. A divorce action is a civil lawsuit in New York and in a complaint grounds must be alleged. New York has several grounds for divorce including adultery.

If you are considering filing for divorce in New York, schedule a consultation with our Westchester County divorce lawyer to protect yourself and those who matter most. We can help you through this difficult time in your life.

Is Adultery a Crime in New York?

Adultery is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 3 months in jail or one year of probation.

According to New York State Penal Law Section 255.17, a person is guilty of adultery when they engage in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when they have a living spouse or the other person has an alive spouse.

Cheating on your spouse is a crime in New York State. However, that does not mean you or your spouse are getting thrown in jail anytime soon.

Although adultery constitutes a crime "on the books", it is generally not prosecuted in New York State. However, being the victim of an adulterous spouse can put you at an advantage in divorce court as it can have financial ramifications on both spousal support and the equitable distribution of assets and debts.

In New York State is Adultery a Reason for Divorce?

New York State Divorce Laws, under DRL 170(4) The commission of an act of adultery, …, is hereby defined as the commission of an act of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse, voluntarily performed by the defendant, with a person other than the plaintiff after the marriage of plaintiff and defendant. Adultery means sexual intercourse, and anything less is not sufficient for the court to grant a divorce. Adultery can be proven by direct or circumstantial evidence. There are four defenses to adultery in DRL Section 171; including (1) The plaintiff caused or consented to the adultery; (2) The plaintiff has forgiven the defendant; (3) More than 5 years have passed since the discovery of the adultery. DRL 210; (4) The plaintiff has also committed adultery.

Why is Adultery so Important in a Divorce Action?

A claim of adultery can affect equitable distribution in a divorce action. For example, if a spouse spends excessive amounts of money on their paramour, the court can decide that this was a wasteful act of marital assets and award maintenance/alimony or additional marital assets to the non-cheating spouse.

How do you prove Adultery?

In today’s world, it is easier than you think. Social media; Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Seeking Arrangements, Tinder,, Craigslist, Meetup, Plenty of Fish, international dating sites, and other social media all leave a trail of cheating. This, with the more traditional methods, such as bank accounts, credit card charges, video, private investigators, friends, and family all can be used to prove a claim for adultery.

Filing for Divorce in New York

If you are considering a divorce it is important to understand all the grounds for divorce in New York State and with your divorce lawyer select the best ground for your case. Sometimes grounds can impact other areas of a divorce case so it is a decision that must be made after careful consideration. Our main office is in Westchester County, White Plains but we handle all divorces in the surrounding counties of Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, and the Bronx.

To contact one of our Westchester County divorce lawyers at Proto, Sachs & Brown, LLP call (914) 946-4808 for a Free Consultation.