Family Law Focus – Cozen O'Connor

The Ashley Madison Hack — Will It Cause Couples To Divorce?

Everyone is speculating that the Ashley Madison hack will mean an increase in business for divorce lawyers.  This remains to be seen.  However, the real question is what happens if your name appears on the list of users?  And what if it is not your name but your spouse’s name that is included on this list?

In most States, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, infidelity in itself will not usually affect the financial outcome of your divorce, nor do you need to prove infidelity to get divorced.  We have “no fault” divorce which essentially means that if one party wants to get divorced for any reason, they will be permitted to do so.  Moreover, while marital fault, i.e. infidelity, is a factor that a Court can consider in awarding alimony or dividing property, as a practical matter Courts primarily focus on economics when determining these financial matters.

So then, how will the Ashley Madison hack affect the divorce rate?  In fact, there will likely be more divorces as a result of this event.  The reason is that many people who may suspect that their spouse is cheating often need confirmation of same.  That is why they hire private investigators to track down their spouses to see if their suspicions are true. Well, a private investigator is not needed to confirm that those who used the Ashley Madison site have cheated. The information is out there for everyone to see.  Once the infidelity is confirmed, it is likely that those who were contemplating divorce will actually move forward.  And others, who never suspected that their spouses were cheating may now have a reason to get divorced.

It will not only be the spouses of those who used Ashley Madison who might move forward with divorce.  In fact, those who used the site may be relieved that they have been “discovered” and may decide to end an otherwise unhappy marriage.

If parties decide to divorce as a result of being discovered using Ashley Madison, what will happen if any monies are recovered from a lawsuit against the site for breach of the confidentiality it promised?  Should these monies be considered marital assets subject to division?  Frequently, Courts look to the timing of the injury provoking the lawsuit to determine whether it is marital or not.  In this unusual instance it would seem that fairness dictates that any financial recovery should be shared in some way.

The ultimate fallout from the Ashley Madison hack remains to be seen.  However, the most important lesson from all of this is that no websites are 100% secure and should be treated as such.  Thus, be careful of what you post.

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