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Adultery is a Crime Committed When a Married Person Has Sexual Intercouse With a Person Who is Not His/Her Spouse.

There is potential criminal prosecution and/or criminal penalties surrounding adultery in many states. These criminal penalties, and the statutes that surround them, range in both the definition of adultery and the potential penalty for the crime. In Maryland and Virginia the offense of adultery is still a crime but in The District of Columbia repealed the criminal penalty of adultery in 2003. Many other states have “decriminalized” adultery. I find that term “decriminalized” to be tongue in cheek because virtually no one was prosecuted in the first place.

In Maryland adultery is defined as a married person having sex with someone who is not his/her spouse. It is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $10. In states such as Maryland where adultery is a “crime” it works a bittersweet effect upon the perpetrator. Irrespective of the reality that virtually no one is prosecuted for the crime, it remains a crime none the less. A person who is believed to have committed adultery may therefore “plead the 5th”. (I don’t think that was contemplated by our founding fathers.)

This often makes for a ridiculous game of cat and mouse where the cheater invokes his/her 5th Amendment right to be free from self incrimination and not required to answer. A few thousand dollars later, that trick is eventually trumped but not until the offending spouse has ruled out any doubt in the judge’s mind that he/she is morally, as well as financially, bankrupt.

I have handled 17 years worth of divorce cases yet rarely has my client needed to show “through the peephole” type evidence in the face of a cheater’s claim of innocence. The truth is that a contested divorce takes months even years. At some point, the cheater just “comes clean” to get the divorce over and done with. Even more common, the parties having been separated by the turmoil just get a divorce based on separation. Sometimes getting a divorce is the only thing they can agree upon.


Timothy Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place.

Divorce Attorneys in Frederick Maryland


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