Adultery, as a crime, dates back to the Old Testament.   “There has not been an adultery prosecution in over a decade” says the NH Judicial Branch.  In a House Bill proposed last December, adultery will no longer be a crime under the current state law and it will change how divorces are filed as well.

The Crime

At this time, “a person is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if, being a married person, he engages in sexual intercourse with another not his spouse or, being unmarried, engages in sexual intercourse with another known by him to be married.” NH RSA 645:3 Adultery.  This falls under the Public Indecency section of the statue along with Indecent Exposure, Public Urination and Prostitution.

The Ground for Divorce

The NH Judicial Branch also noted that not only would this proposed Bill repeal the criminal law but also amend the divorce statutes to no longer include adultery as a cause for divorce.  As of right now, an individual can pick from nine grounds for divorce or state that there were irreconcilable differences that broke down the marriage, irrespective of the fault of either individual.

The Impact

There appears to be little impact fiscally for the State should this Bill pass but it could speed up some divorces through the Courts without the expense and length required to litigate these issues.  One of the speculations that this crime is still on the books without prosecution is that the politicians do not want to repeal it sending the message to the public that it is okay to commit adultery.  There was a public hearing on the Bill last week on January 28, 2014.  The next step is an executive session scheduled for Tuesday, February 11th at 1:00pm.

To read the full text of the Bill click here: HB 1125

Attorney Katherine J. Morneau

Attorney Katherine J. Morneau