Can You Claim an Emotional Affair as Grounds for Divorce in NY?

In some cases, an emotional affair is more painful than a sexual one but is it grounds for a divorce in New York? New York is a no-fault divorce state which means spouses only need to prove that the marriage cannot continue due to irreconcilable differences. However, extenuating circumstances can impact other parts of the divorce. Keep reading for more information.

What Is an “Emotional Affair?”

An emotional affair is a non-physical, yet intimate connection between two people who are in committed monogamous relationships with other partners. It involves sharing deep emotional bonds, personal thoughts, feelings, and conversations with someone outside of their primary relationship, often leading to an emotional dependency on that person. Emotional affairs can be as damaging and hurtful as physical affairs, as they create a strong emotional attachment that can undermine trust, intimacy, and exclusivity within the primary relationship.

Emotional affairs often begin as friendships or close professional relationships, but gradually evolve into something more intense and intimate. The individuals involved may spend significant time talking to each other, confiding in each other about their personal lives, and seeking emotional support from each other, sometimes even more than from their own partners. While an emotional affair does not involve sexual activities, it can still result in feelings of betrayal, jealousy, and heartbreak for the affected partner.

But can you claim an emotional affair as grounds for divorce in New York? To answer that question, it is essential to understand the state's laws regarding divorce and the concept of fault-based and no-fault divorces.

Fault-Based vs. No-Fault Divorce in New York

Before 2010, New York was one of the few states that continued to allow fault-based divorces. This meant that a spouse seeking a divorce had to prove that their partner was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Common grounds for fault-based divorce included adultery, cruelty, abandonment, and imprisonment.

However, in 2010, New York introduced no-fault divorce, allowing couples to end their marriage without assigning blame to either party. With a no-fault divorce, a spouse only needs to assert that the marriage has been "irretrievably broken" to file.

Pursuing a No-Fault Divorce

As mentioned previously, NY is a no-fault divorce state. This means that marriage need only be irretrievably broken and other grounds like adultery are not necessarily grounds for divorce. However, an affair, even an emotional one, could potentially impact the divorce proceedings. For example, an emotional affair could impact spousal support if the spouse involved in the affair purchased a phone or computer to engage with their extramarital partner. Additionally, if a spouse spent an inordinate amount of time with their extramarital partner and was not present for childcare, they could be ordered to pay slightly more in child support.

However, regardless of the circumstances that lead to a divorce, spouses must consult with a qualified attorney. Divorce is complicated and may be further complicated if individuals attempt to navigate the process themselves. An attorney can provide legal guidance and support from petition to final declaration.


While an emotional affair can be incredibly hurtful and damaging to a marriage, it does not meet the legal definition of adultery in NY and cannot be claimed as grounds for a divorce. However, the introduction of no-fault divorce has made it easier for couples to end their marriage without assigning blame. If you are considering divorce due to an emotional affair, it is essential to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of New York's divorce laws and guide you through the process.

Contact Arnel Law Firm today.