Is Cheating on Your Spouse a Crime?
It may surprise you to hear that adultery is a crime in Virginia. It is
a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $250 fine. Although adultery is often
not prosecuted, the fact that it remains a crime raises some interesting
issues in a divorce case.
In January of this year, a bill was presented to the Virginia Senate Courts
of Justice Committee which would have changed this. The proposal was to
decriminalize adultery, but keep the up to $250 fine in place as a civil
penalty. The bill did not pass, so adultery remains a crime in Virginia.
Even though the threat of prosecution for adultery is low, that threat
alone is enough to confer rights to the accused spouse. The most important
of these is the ability to assert your 5th Amendment privilege (“take the 5th”) and not incriminate yourself. You probably recognize this concept
from t.v. shows – “You have the right to remain silent.”
If your spouse’s attorney questions you about an affair, you can
keep quiet. If your lover is also married, he or she can also take the 5th. The result is that the innocent spouse is forced to find another way
to prove adultery, usually by hiring a private investigator. This can
become expensive and take time.
The end result is that the cheating spouse can shield him or herself behind
the crime. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, making adultery a civil
penalty and not a crime would actually have had a harsher impact on the
cheating spouse in a divorce.
Full Article sponsored by ShounBach on WTOP: http://wtop.com/shoun-bach/2017/02/is-cheating-on-your-spouse-a-crime/