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Caught with Ashley Madison

Caught with Ashley Madison?

In a 2015 data breach, thousands of individuals were identified as cheating on their spouses by using the Ashley Madison website to find extramarital partners.

Media coverage of the 2015 hack and data leak of user information from the Ashley Madison website was predictably intense. Reportedly, thousands of individuals were identified as cheating on their spouses, and there was speculation that the hacking scandal would lead to divorces.

The purpose of this article is to identify the steps necessary if you are anticipating a divorce, for whatever reason, hacked or not.

In divorce cases, you always will need to be able to demonstrate your financial situation. Typically, this is accomplished by providing copies of tax returns, debt statements (such as credit card or mortgage statements), and statements for bank, savings or investment accounts. Most married people have a house that they own with their spouse, so they will need to be able to show the value of the house. The easiest way to get an estimate of the possible value of your home is to get comparable prices for it from a real estate agent.

If you have other assets of value, such as vehicles, boats, vacation homes, and personal property (such as artwork or jewelry), you will need to know the values of those items as well. Ordinarily, those personal property items can be valued using the documentation provided to an insurer in order to insure the documents against loss or theft. Vacation homes can be valued using comparable prices, just as your primary residence is valued.

Most states’ laws provide for “no-fault” divorces, which means that extramarital affairs are meaningless in the divorce process. Technically, the court in a no-fault state is not required to make a finding as to the reason for the divorce; the divorce can be granted simply because one of the parties no longer wants to be married. However, there are some circumstances in which the extramarital affair matters. For example:
  • If the couple has children, and the extramarital affair was with a felon or a pedophile, that will have an impact on legal decision making authority (custody) and parenting time.
  • If a spouse spent community funds on the affair, the other spouse may have a claim for reimbursement for those funds for being spent on a non-community purpose. (Extramarital affairs very rarely benefit the marital community.)
As a practical matter, if a spouse has been caught cheating, the hostility and acrimony of the divorce usually increases exponentially. If the cheater maintains a relationship with the extramarital partner, it is more likely than not that the divorce itself will be more expensive.

It is never a good idea to immediately expose your children to the new significant other, because it confuses the children and it gives the other spouse an opportunity to attack the significant other for any behavior the other spouse believes is inappropriate. It is far better to wait until the divorce is concluded, and legal decision making authority (custody) and parenting time are resolved, before involving your children in your new relationship.

Finally, it is important to remember that every divorce is unique, as are the parties, the circumstances, the judges, and lawyers handling the divorce, and it is unreasonable to expect to get the same result as your friend simply because you’re both going through divorce.
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