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Should I worry about being charged with adultery?

Allegan, MI |

In the state of Michigan, how worried should a spouse be of being charged with adultery?

I know that no one has been charged with adultery since 1971, but the Michigan Court of Appeals made the public aware in 2007 that it is technically a crime punishable by up to life in prison. But how likely is that? And would considerations such as abuse to the spouse committing the adultery be taken into account?

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Attorney answers 3


Pursuant to MCL 750.31, "Complainant and time prosecution to be commenced–No prosecution for adultery, under the preceding section, shall be commenced, but on the complaint of the husband or wife; and no such prosecution shall be commenced after 1 year from the time of committing the offense."

It is not punishable by up to life in jail. It is extremely rare that it is ever pursued. In fact, I believe it was only threatened in 2007 against a woman who was refusing to testify in a related domestic assault case. For the complete statue, visit the Michigan Legislature website and search for keyword "adultery."

DISCLAIMER: This answer is provided as general information, which may not be appropriate for the specific facts of your particular situation. No attorney-client relationship has been established based on this limited communication. You are advised to consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction before taking any action or inaction that may affect your legal rights.



750.520b Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree; felony; consecutive terms. Sec. 520b. (1) A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree if he or she engages in sexual penetration with another person and if any of the following circumstances exists: (c) Sexual penetration occurs under circumstances involving the commission of any other felony. It is my understanding that due to the wording of the statute, adultery could be punishable by up to life in prison because by definition it constitutes 1 degree CSC. It is a felony involving sexual penetration. How often are adultery charges actually sought? And how inclined are prosecutors to seek adultery charges once a compaint has been raised?


I agree with Ms. Heckler's answer and would add that, as Michigan is a no-fault divorce state that permits even a spouse who is committing adultery to file for divorce and terminate a marriage, it may be time for that spouse to consult with a divorce attorney and move on.

The above comment is meant as general advice. More information would be needed at a confidential consultation in order to provide an accurate evaluation of your legal options.


I would certainly hope that the prosecutor in your area has better things to do with his or her time than to pursue criminal charges of adultery. And even if they were to pursue felony criminal charges for adultery, the likelihood of a life sentence I would suggest is minimal at best. While adultery is technically still punishable as a crime, the State also defines adultery as cohabitation between two divorced persons (MCL 750.32)! How often do you see that prosecution occurring? If someone were to be charged with adultery, I think it would make headlines and generate substantial TV coverage -- and would be politically embarrassing to a prosecutor's office.

Nevertheless, the issue of spousal abuse is separate from the issue of adultery -- and it is not particularly appropriate to employ an excuse of alleged abuse as having forced someone into another's arms. And while Michigan is a "no fault divorce" state, meaning that the courts don't necessarily take into account whose alleged fault it is that the marriage has failed, adultery can be a factor in spousal support calculations and abuse is a factor in child support determinations. It is always best to consult with a competent local attorney about your options. Good luck.

Providing any type of advice by answering your question on this service doesn't create an attorney-client relationship. If you would like to consult with me further about this matter, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.