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The Ashley Madison Scandal: The Media Cares, But Do Judges?

Posted by Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht LLP on December 1st, 2015

The Ashley Madison Scandal The Media Cares, But Do Judges By Jason A. Isaacson{3:05 minutes to read} When the news broke this past summer that AshleyMadison.com had been hacked, leaking the names and identifying information of approximately 37 million users, there were more than a few jittery spouses.

The scandal attracted wide media coverage and rampant speculation about the effect that the leak would have on marriages of the subscribers. However, for all of the media hype, while the revelation that one’s spouse has been cheating is reason enough to seek a divorce, a spouse’s infidelity has little, if any, bearing on the actual divorce process.

This is because New York is a no-fault state and a divorce can be granted based on an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months. Essentially, if a married couple is not getting along, it’s pretty much guaranteed that either spouse will have valid grounds for a divorce. The common perception that a private investigator is going to pop out of a closet or bushes to catch the offending spouse and then testify to influence the course of action is simply unrealistic.

Instead, the judicial system is more concerned with fashioning a remedy or framework for the parting couple to move forward than with the grounds for divorce. As such, spousal infidelity typically has only minimal effect on the divorce proceedings and all the attendant issues – custody, parenting time, child support, the division of the marital estate, spousal support.

In certain limited instances, infidelity may be relevant to some extent. For instance, it may bear on a custody determination when one of the spouses has introduced or exposed the children to a paramour, or on the financial aspects of the case, when a spouse spent a considerable sum on his or her paramour during the marriage.

That said, judges – generally overwhelmed and overburdened – have little interest in conducting a “forensic” as to where the fault lies. So, while the Ashley Madison leak could certainly result in an influx of cases, it’s not going to change how the overwhelming majority of these cases are decided.

Simply stated, despite the fact that parting spouses are likely to be emotionally charged – particularly where there is infidelity – the courtroom is not the forum to resolve the emotional turmoil or anguish they are experiencing.  

Joshua B. HechtJoshua B. Hecht
Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLP
(516) 352-2100
(212) 376-5080

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