THE BLOG
05/13/2014 06:26 pm ET Updated Jul 13, 2014

In France, Using an Online Dating Site is Now Grounds for Divorce

A question I'm often asked is if flirting online is considered cheating.

So many are connecting on social media sites, creating profiles on Tinder while still in a relationship, and looking for love online, while still in a committed relationship or even in a marriage.

Now a French court has ruled that a woman from Aix-en-Provence, who was married for over 20 years, violated her marriage obligations because she was chatting with men online, even though she did not meet any of them.

One would now assume that any married person in France becomes a member of the adulterous dating site, Ashley Madison, it would immediately be grounds for divorce.

Apparently during the course of the French couple's marriage, the wife was chatting with men on a Belgium-based social network and singles site called "Netlog" and sent intimate photos to some of the men she was communicating with.

Le Figaro, a French newspaper reports that just seeking an extra-martial relationship was offensive behavior towards the husband and ruled that the divorce was the sole fault of the wife.

So let's look at how this affects relationships. Marriages often hit numerous bumps on the road. Whether it's financial problems, reduced or non-existent sex, different opinions on how to raise children or more, many of these issues can lead to depression, curiosity to find out if the grass is greener elsewhere, and eventually divorce.

In the case of this couple, "Natalie" and "Bruno," she claimed she was searching online because she was depressed. Is looking online today's digital version of going to a strip club without touching the dancer, staring at a good looking man or woman and smiling without saying hello, or scrolling through online dating profiles before you consider divorce just to see what else is out there? What about sending a text or a sext message without engaging in physical contact?

The French judges ruled against the wife by stating that depression was not a good defense as to why she was communicating with men online. Laws in France now state that spouses owe each other mutual respect, fidelity, and help. Yes, couples go into marriage devoted to each other with all good intentions. With over half of marriages ending in divorce, often those intentions fall by the wayside.

According to the husband's lawyer, he claimed that the wife did not respect her spouse, and the judges agreed.

I often think that flirting on Facebook could be considered cheating, if the spouse doesn't know that you're chatting with someone from the opposite sex while they're sound asleep at night. I also believe that married individuals should not be members of online dating sites for singles, where they are posing as unmarried. In my book, The Perils of Cyber-Dating, one man was wooing women all over the country promising marriage, while he still had a wife at home. This unfortunately is not uncommon.

Sites such as eHarmony forbid those who are married to join their online dating site. Still, studies are showing that one third of married men in the U.S. are frequenting Internet dating sites; some to look, and others to get emotionally or physically involved. In the U.K., Facebook was named in one third of divorce filings.

Where do we draw the line between innocent flirting and a violation of a marriage commitment? Will your mobile phone become evidence in future divorce hearings?

Your comments and thoughts are welcome.

Julie Spira is a top online dating expert and founder of CyberDatingExpert.com. She was an early adopter of Internet dating and has been coaching singles online for 20 years. For more online dating advice, follow @JulieSpira on Twitter and sign up for the free Weekly Flirt.

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