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Adultery: Michigan's Felony 'Scarlet Letter'

The end of a marriage is an emotionally charged time that requires you to endure a legally complex process. Personal issues often clash with Michigan laws that govern divorce.

Cheating on a spouse can be a symptom of marital strife. Discovering an affair can be the cause of a divorce. Michigan is a no-fault state where spouses only have to show irreconcilable differences. Yet, judges are required to look at adultery as a "fault" when determining alimony, especially if the cheating spouse spent lavishly on their lover.

However, the spouse who had an affair will not escape with just paying more in spousal support over a longer amount of time. Adultery can also have serious criminal consequences in Michigan.

In Michigan, adultery is a felony crime. The law also applies to divorced couples who choose to cohabitate, only to resume their extra-marital activities.

In either instance, the non-adulterous spouse "must be the one to file a criminal complaint within a year of discovering the affair.

The legal definition of adultery varies in the states where the law exists. Penalties for convictions range from a $10 fine to more than three years in prison (in neighboring Wisconsin). While prosecutions are rare, the law does raise privacy concerns regardless of the moral implications.


A skilled family law attorney can navigate you through every step of your divorce. You need protection in the form of legal counsel to even the odds you face.

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