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 $125 fine.
Adultery refers to sexual relations which are not officially legitimized; for example it does not refer to having sexual intercourse with multiple partners in the case of polygamy (when a man is married to more than one wife at a time, called polygyny; or when a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, called polyandry).
In the traditional English common law, adultery was a felony.
In most Western countries, adultery itself is no longer a criminal offense, but may still have legal consequences, particularly in divorce cases.
For example, in fault-based family law jurisdictions, adultery almost always constitutes a ground for divorce and may be a factor in property settlement, the custody of children, the denial of alimony, etc.Polyamory, meaning the practice, desire, or acceptance of intimate relationships that are not exclusive with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships, with knowledge and consent of everyone involved, sometimes involves such marriages.Swinging and open marriages are both a form of non-monogamy, and the spouses would not view the sexual relations as objectionable.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.It is a non-cognizable, non-bailable criminal offence.