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Adultery - Definition May Vary From Place to Place

In the dictionary, the adultery definition is “engaging in voluntary sexual activity with a married partner who is not one’s spouse”. In legal terms, it is often defines as a crime against marriage and is not exactly the same as infidelity. The common theme is that at least one of the partners in the sexual activity is married to someone else. It differs from infidelity in that infidelity does not necessarily involve sexual relations.

In this day of partners living together as a married couple without the legal license, there have been changes made to the definition. In the state of New York, for example, adultery is defined as meaning “engaging in sexual activity with someone other than one’s living partner.” North Carolina law defines it as a man and woman cohorting or sleeping together when one or both is married and in Minnesota, the law states that id a woman sleeps with a man who is not her husband, both are guilty of adultery.

Adultery has always been condemned in society, even though it is widely practiced. In some cultures it is punishable by death. It has always been grounds for divorce, but the circumstances have changed somewhat over the centuries. In Napoleonic times, a man could file for divorce if his wife was caught with another man, but the same was not true for the wife, if she caught her husband with another woman. In this case, the interpretation of the term refers only to a woman having sexual relations with another man. Such action was condoned for the male partner.

Adultery is illegal in Mexico, Korea, Taiwan and in some US states. A man or woman found guilty of adultery in Pennsylvania is subject to 2 years in jail or 18 months of treatment for insanity. In Michigan, the punishment could be life imprisonment. Maryland, on the other hand, only imposes a fine of $10 while other states impose a fine of $100. Married members of the US military found guilty of sleeping with a different partner could be court martialed. There are no laws concerning adultery in Canada, only to use it as grounds for a divorce.

While most people accept the dictionary definition of adultery, it is usually regarded as an immoral act, breaking the seventh commandment - Thou shalt not commit adultery. When it is used as grounds for a divorce, it does not necessarily mean that this is the only problem a married couple has. It usually means that this was the culminating point at which they realized the marriage was over and that one partner could not forgive the other for the transgression. There were likely many incidences leading up to the breaking point or the point at which the adulterous party sought the comfort of another man or woman.

Many divorces in states where adultery is illegal use other terms for the grounds, such as irreconcilable differences, so that there will not be other charges involved. There does have to be undisputed proof presented in court to prove that adultery has taken place.

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