Adultery describes, believe it or not, a crime. The crime of adultery is “When a married woman has sexual intercourse with a man other than her husband, whether married or not, both are guilty of adultery and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both.” – Minn. Stat. 609.36
A few things to note. First, this statute is obviously discriminatory on its face. A married man can have sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman and it is no crime.
Second, this “offense” is very rarely prosecuted.
MN Adultery and Divorce
Adultery, or more broadly “affairs”, have almost no impact on divorce proceedings, which are civil matters, not criminal. Minnesota is a “no fault” divorce state. This means that one spouse didn’t have to have done something wrong for the other to request and get a divorce.
In addition, Minnesota law specifically forbids the court to consider such behavior when deciding property and spousal maintenance issues.
This creates a difficult situation. Obviously adultery can be painful to the other spouse, but the law does not offer a remedy in divorce proceedings for it. Typically counseling or some form of therapy are more appropriate.
There is one notable exception when adultery may impact a divorce. In child custody situations, if one spouse gets involved with another adult while the divorce is ongoing, it’s important that the spouse recognizes and behaves in a way that allows the children to adjust to this. Flagrantly disregarding this can impact a judge’s decision in a child custody ruling.