Is Adultery Against the Law in Massachusetts?

Adultery is no longer against the law in Massachusetts. It is recognized as valid ground for divorce, however. It can also affect your no-fault divorce. If proven, it can influence alimony, property division, and child custody arrangements, potentially affecting the outcome of the divorce case.

Defining Adultery

Understanding Adultery in Massachusetts

Adultery, in the context of divorce law, refers to a spouse’s extramarital sexual activity outside of the marriage. It can involve one or both spouses and can have significant emotional and legal consequences. While adultery is often associated with betrayal and hurt feelings, it’s important to focus on the legal aspects when dealing with divorce proceedings.

The Historical Perspective

Historically, adultery was considered a criminal offense in Massachusetts, punishable by fines and imprisonment. However, the legal landscape has evolved over time, and today, adultery is primarily addressed within the realm of family law rather than criminal law.

In modern Massachusetts, adultery is not a crime, but it still plays a crucial role in divorce cases. It is recognized as one of the grounds for divorce, and understanding how it impacts your case is essential.

Is Adultery a Ground for Divorce
in Massachusetts?

Grounds for Divorce in the State

Massachusetts allows for both fault-based and no-fault divorces. Adultery falls under the category of fault-based grounds for divorce. In a fault-based divorce, one spouse alleges that the other’s actions, such as adultery, have caused the breakdown of the marriage.

Adultery can also play a part in your no-fault divorce. If you can prove that the affair effected your marital estate or the children, it could have a significant impact on the outcome of your divorce.

Adultery as a Valid Ground

Adultery can serve as a valid ground for divorce in Massachusetts. If you are the innocent spouse who has been harmed by your partner’s extramarital affair, you have the option to use adultery as a reason to seek a divorce. However, it’s important to note that the burden of proof lies with the spouse making the accusation. For the most part, a no-fault divorce is your best option, even when adultery is an issuel

Adultery and Its Impact
on Divorce

Alimony and Property Division

When adultery is proven in a divorce case, it can influence decisions related to alimony and property division. The court may consider the adultery as a factor in determining alimony payments and the fair distribution of marital assets. This means that the adulterous spouse may have to provide more financial support, and the innocent spouse may receive a more substantial share of the marital property.

Child Custody and Visitation

In child custody disputes, the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child. While adultery itself may not directly affect custody arrangements, it can become a relevant factor if it can be shown that the extramarital affair has a detrimental impact on the child’s well-being. The court will assess whether the adultery has affected the parent’s ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment.

Filing for Divorce

If you believe that adultery has played a role in the breakdown of your marriage and you wish to file for divorce on this ground, we can do so, but it’s not advisable. If you file a divorce “for cause”, you then have to prove your allegation. That takes more time, money and effort and if you fail to do so, you could lose your case. We almost always advise our clients to file for a no-fault divorce.

Gathering Evidence of Adultery

Proving adultery in court can be challenging, as Massachusetts requires clear and convincing evidence. This may involve gathering:

  • witness statements,
  • phone records,
  • emails, or
  • other documentation

that can support your claim. An attorney experienced in handling adultery-related divorce cases can assist you in building a compelling case.

Evolving Attitudes Toward Adultery

Society’s perspectives on adultery have shifted over the years. While it was once highly stigmatized, attitudes today tend to be more focused on the legal and emotional consequences rather than moral judgments. This shift can impact how adultery is viewed in the context of divorce proceedings.

Legal changes can also influence how adultery is considered in divorce cases. If, for instance, the cheating spouse spent a great deal of money on the affair, that may have reduced the marital estate. That means there are fewer assets to go around. The Court may take that into account and award the innocent spouse more in the property division.

Affordable Divorce Attorneys

An affordable divorce is possible. At Afford Law, our fees are based on your income, so the less you earn, the less you pay. Our mission is to provide experienced legal help you can afford.

If you can’t afford our lower rates for a traditional attorney-client relationship, you have another option. Our legal coaching service can save you money and still give you access to a skilled attorney. In this arrangement, you represent yourself in court while we work with you behind the scenes to prepare you every step of the way. This service is available to you for one low monthly fee.


In conclusion, adultery can significantly impact divorce proceedings in Massachusetts, affecting alimony, property division, and child custody decisions. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s vital to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in family law. We can provide you with the guidance and support you need to navigate this challenging process successfully.

Legal Disclaimer

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances and receive tailored guidance.

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