When news broke last month that the popular infidelity website Ashley Madison had been hacked and over 37 million users' personal information compromised, the image that immediately came to my mind was a salivating divorce lawyer eagerly rubbing his palms together like he was about to munch on a big ol' chocolate cake baked and filled with failed matrimony.
I wasn't alone. It seemed to be the natural next step as soon as those 37 million spouses found out what their other halves had been up to. They'd get wise, call up the nearest family attorney, and begin the long, drawn-out process of making a messy situation even messier.
Over at the family law blog Dad's Divorce, Shawn Garrison writes that revelations of adultery are no longer a ticket to a big payoff:
"Some attorneys have noted that the notion of using proof of an affair to obtain a better settlement is outdated and doubt the hack will lead to a greater number of divorces. With the emergence of no-fault divorce, many judges are uninterested in hearing about fault. Often they will order an even split of property and encourage attorneys to ignore the misconduct in the interest of finishing the case in a timely manner."
The key here is to understand the difference between fault and no-fault divorces. With the former, one spouse sues the other for divorce based on certain grounds determined by the state. Alternatively, no-fault divorce is a mutual and much less expensive agreement to end a marriage. You've heard the expression "irreconcilable differences," right? That's no-fault divorce.
So basically, busy courts and unhappy couples often possess a shared interest in making the divorce proceedings as painless as possible. Even though infidelity can be painful and elicit a thirst for revenge, adultery (or suspicion of adultery) is no longer a super-firm ground to stand on when trying to fleece your soon-to-be ex.
I don't doubt we'll see a bit of a spike in the divorce rate should the stolen Ashley Madison info leak. I now agree with Garrison that there's little reason to expect an onslaught of messiness and thus a big payday for divorce lawyers.
Read more at Dad's Divorce.
Photo credit: Wavebreakmedia via iStock
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