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In virtual realm, spousal cheating may be in eye of the beholder

Country singer Brad Paisley says he's grateful for Ashley Madison. To be clear, according to The Associated Press, Paisley is specifically pleased not about the website, but about the news from earlier this summer that the site's security got hacked. As a result, Paisley and co-host Carrie Underwood have fodder for humor as they get ready for this year's Country Music Association Awards next month.

There may be some in Mississippi and other states who don't find the revelations of the security breach all that funny. For some spouses feeling betrayed by their mate's activities on the affair-supporting site, it could well be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Adultery is one of the grounds for which contested divorce in Mississippi can be pursued.

But the nature of most of the activity that is said to take place on sites like Ashley Madison raises a question. Is it really cheating? For many of those who participate, the apparent answer is, no.

According to a sex therapist who has studied the phenomena of online cheating, many of the men and women who subscribe to the services are less worried about getting caught by their spouses and more worried about actually falling in love with someone in cyberspace.

The reason they most often give for their lack of concern is that they don't see what they are doing as cheating. They may flirt and even send intimate photos to others in the forum, but they say if no physical contact occurs, it's not infidelity. They reportedly don't always hold to that view, though, when asked how they think their mates would react to their activities.

It might be tough to make the case that virtual flirting and sexting constitutes adultery that could be used to justify a contested divorce. Each case, though, has to be judged on its own merits, so consulting an attorney is necessary.

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