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Adultery often incurred severe punishment, usually for the woman and sometimes for the man, with penalties including capital punishment, mutilation, or torture.Such punishments have gradually fallen into disfavor, especially in Western countries from the 19th century.For example, New York defines an adulterer as a person who "engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse." In the 2003 New Hampshire Supreme Court case Blanchflower v.Blanchflower, it was held that female same-sex sexual relations did not constitute sexual intercourse, based on a 1961 definition from Webster's Third New International Dictionary; and thereby an accused wife in a divorce case was found not guilty of adultery. Bushey, for adultery, a case that ended in a guilty plea and a 5 fine.Adultery is not a ground for divorce in jurisdictions which have adopted a no-fault divorce model.In some societies and among certain religious adherents, adultery may affect the social status of those involved, and may result in social ostracism.Although the legal definition of adultery differs in nearly every legal system, the common theme is sexual relations outside of marriage, in one form or another.
A marriage in which both spouses agree ahead of time to accept sexual relations by either partner with others is sometimes referred to as an open marriage or the swinging lifestyle.Extramarital sexual acts not fitting this definition are not "adultery" though they may constitute "unreasonable behavior", also a ground of divorce.