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Family law: should Rhode Island revisit its adultery law?


Rhode Island statutes recognize that adultery can be reasonable grounds for divorce. Less known, perhaps, is the fact that, in Rhode Island, adultery is also treated as a criminal offense, the same as arson, assault and breaking and entering. As the law stands, any East Greenwich, Rhode Island, resident proven guilty of adultery, which is defined as sexual intercourse with a partner other than one's spouse, can be fined $500. Similar laws also exist in other states and one neighboring New England state is moving toward changing that law.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives recently voted to repeal that state's adultery law, which was misdemeanor with a fine of $1,200. One lawmaker stated that the law trespassed on an individual's privacy. Another representative felt that having the law empowered the police to investigate cases of adultery.

One justification for the repeal comes from the fact that criminalizing adultery did not prevent its occurrence. On the contrary, the much-publicized repeal may appear to encourage adultery. However, disputes arising as a consequence of adultery can be dealt with in family court per existing divorce laws.

Irrespective of what the law says or does not say on the matter, people with spouses who commit adultery are usually aggrieved upon learning of such behavior. While some may choose to keep quiet about it, for reasons such as raising children without disruption or marital financial challenges, it is a personal choice to do so. In divorce cases with adulterous spouses, intervention by police or other authorities can be an unwelcome intrusion.

Those living in Kent County, Rhode Island, are likely the best judges of their personal relationships. In addition, they are completely capable of deciding, if they need legal advice or mediation to address their marital problems.

Source: Latin Post, "Adultery Still Illegal in New Hampshire, But Law May Soon Be Repealed," Robert C. Weich III, April 15, 2014

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