As many New York residents know, a large online dating service called Ashley Madison was recently hacked. The service helps pair individuals looking to have an extramarital affair, but as the identities of millions of users were recently made public, this has affected a colossal amount of marriages. With so many individuals’ extramarital affairs made public, there has been much speculation regarding the consequences for those individuals when and if they end up going through divorce as a result.
According to older family laws, had this breach occurred in the past, the consequences for adulterers would have, on average, been more severe. As an example, if this had occurred in the 1970s and one spouse was able to prove that adultery had indeed occurred, the initiation for divorce could be granted. According to present day law in most states — including New York — divorce can be initiated either by fault-based grounds, such as adultery, or by invoking no-fault grounds. In New York, for a divorce to be initiated by no-fault grounds, the marriage must have been broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months.
Many states, including New York, extended this no-fault approach in regards to property division. New York is considered an equitable distribution state, which means that marital assets as well as liabilities must be evenly and fairly divided. If it can be proved that a spouse wasted his or her marital assets — including car payments or even eating out with a non-marital partner — then it is typical for the court to reduce the adulterer’s portion of his or her marital assets as a means to provide compensation for their spouse.
The effects of the recent data breach have shown that it is now increasingly easier to gain evidence of an extramarital affair having taken place. If an individual in New York thinks that his or her partner is involved in such an affair and chooses to get a divorce, the couple might proceed through aspects of the divorce such as child custody and property division amicably. However, when such decisions are not easily settled, individuals in this case typically consult an experienced divorce attorney to represent their interests in family court.
Source: huffingtonpost.com, “Where Ashley Madison fits into divorce law“, Margaret Ryznar, Aug. 20, 2015