Divorce and the Release of Data from AshleyMadison.com

August 20, 2015
Louis Sternberg


AshleyMadison.com, a dating website that targets married people and promotes adultery uses the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair.” Unfortunately for many marriages, these affairs are quickly becoming public knowledge as it has recently been discovered that computer hackers breached the website’s security and have obtained confidential user information. According to USA Today, the hackers now are reportedly beginning to share the site’s user data online – the estimated 9.7 gigabytes of data appears to include member account details including names and credit card information. This newly leaked client information will surely result in many jilted spouses pursuing divorces throughout the country.

Domestic Relations Law §170 provides that adultery (DRL §170(4)) is one of the several valid grounds for divorce. In 2010, New York’s divorce laws were changed such that a party seeking a divorce is no longer required to prove traditional grounds for divorce. Instead, New York now allows for “no-fault divorce” based on the “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. Moreover, although a divorce can still be sought based on the grounds of adultery, proving such grounds generally will not affect the determination of custody, child support, maintenance or equitable distribution of property. The information released from the website may still be useful to spouses litigating a divorce in that the data can be used to pursue further discovery, to prove one party’s wasteful dissipation of marital assets and to impeach a party that has claimed to have been loyal throughout a marriage.

All in all, the exposure of the unfaithful spouses’ information from AshleyMadison.com will likely lead to more divorces but will be of limited strategic use during the litigation. The merits of each individual case, as opposed to usage of a particular website, will determine which spouse gets the house in Aspen and which gets the condo in Miami.