Ashley Madison, a site founded for the purpose of facilitating affairs between married people was hacked. The hackers, known as The Impact Team, assumed responsibility for hacking and leaking data for 33 million accounts, causing chaos across the globe. The leak includes usernames, first and last names, email addresses, phone numbers and other such sensitive data.
For people in the midst of a divorce or even for those considering a divorce action based on this newly acquired information, it may be surprising, but a “cheating” spouse will not necessarily change the direction or outcome of the divorce, nor will it merit a greater award of equitable distribution to the innocent spouse.
In 2010, New York implemented No-Fault Divorce, which means that a divorce may be granted even if neither party is found to be responsible for the divorce. That being the case, if a divorce action is based on no-fault grounds, then an extramarital affair will have no bearing on the action. The judge will only focus on whether the parties are splitting their assets fairly and whether custody and visitation is based on the best interests of the children.
While the innocent spouse certainly feels betrayed and angry, it is incorrect to assume that a judge will take infidelity into consideration, whether regarding dividing finances or ruling on custody. However, in the sensationalized Ashley Madison leak that has been so publicly widespread, the cheating spouse may fear hurting his or her reputation in front of family and friends and give in to the demands of the innocent spouse based solely on his or her guilt.
Legally, infidelity has very little impact, if any, on a divorce based on no-fault. And while it may serve as a bargaining chip for the innocent spouse, he or she must keep in mind that despite the emotional pain, fighting in a divorce drives up the legal fees of all parties involved, not just of the cheating spouse.
For anyone caught in this hacking frenzy, it is advisable that either or both parties consider engaging in family or marital counseling to effectively address the initial shock and anger, and to determine whether they really want to proceed with divorce. If parties find this irreconcilable, it is recommended that they seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney to best understand their legal options.