Crimes Against Marriage

Categories :: Family Law


In Maryland, there are two criminal acts which are defined as “crimes against marriage.” These acts, though they occur privately within a marriage, can be prosecuted as criminal offenses. Both adultery and bigamy are punishable criminal acts in Maryland. 


Adultery laws are important to unmarried cohabitants if one of the partners is still married to another person.  Generally, adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person other than that person's husband or wife. The sexual intercourse necessary for adultery must involve some penetration of the female organ by the male organ, but a “completion” of the sexual intercourse is not required. Adultery is a ground for divorce in Maryland. Therefore, the married person who has sexual intercourse with another person could be sued for divorce. Read the Law: MD Code Family Law §7-103

Additionally, although no Maryland law or court has directly addressed the issue, adultery can only be committed with a member of the opposite sex because of the definition of adultery. That means that a married person who engages in sexual relations with a same sex partner may not be guilty of adultery, but  he or she may be charged with constructive desertion, which is another ground for divorce in Maryland.

Many states, including Maryland, make adultery a criminal offense. Despite this, prosecutions are rare. In Maryland, adultery is still a misdemeanor punishable by a $10 fine.Read the Law: MD Code Criminal Law §10-501


Maryland law, like the laws of most states, prohibits bigamy, which is entering into a marriage while already married to a living person. In Maryland, the bigamy law does not apply if:

  • A person's previous lawful spouse has been absent from them for a continuous period of 7 years; and
  • The person does not know where their previous lawful spouse is living at the time of the subsequent marriage ceremony.

In Maryland, bigamy is a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to 9 years. Read the law: MD Code Criminal Law Section 10-502

Additional Resources

The following books may be available at a public Circuit Court Law Library.

Fader's Maryland Family Law, LexisNexis (5th ed.  2011), § 3-4(I), pages 3-11–3-12.
Family Law Manual, Maryland: Hanford Pub. Co. (1984), DIV 2401.
Maryland Divorce and Separation Law: MICPEL (9th ed. 2009), pp. 16-18; p. 1102.
Maryland Domestic Relations Forms with Practice Commentary: LexisNexis (2012), pp. 1-3 through 1-4; Form 12.54.6: pp. 12-81 through 12-83.


MD Code, Criminal Law, Family Law Articles, Maryland Law Encyclopedia, Adultery

Escape Now Button: 

Is this legal advice?

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.  The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site.  In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – © Maryland State Law Library, 2016.”

Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view, download Adobe Acrobat Reader.