What the Ashley Madison Website Hack Means for California Divorce

For Ashley Madison users, the idea of a sizzling hot, sticky summer probably sounds like a good thing. However, throw a website hack scandal into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a big sticky mess. In July, it was reported that Ashley Madison, a casual sex and cheating network, had been hacked by a group called The Impact Team. The hackers threatened to release “all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails,” unless Avid Life Media, the Canadian company that runs Ashley Madison, shut down the website completely.

On August 18, the hackers appeared to have followed through with their threats, as it was reported that The Impact Team released 32 million names, credit card numbers, email addresses, and home addresses of Ashley Madison clients.

The hackers claimed to take a moral stance in their manifesto, saying that Ashley Madison’s offer to its customers of a “full delete” feature was a sham. This feature promised the opportunity to wipe clean from the company’s records any payment and address details of the customer for a $19 fee.  However, The Impact Team made serious allegations about the full-delete feature, claiming that it “netted Avid Life Media $1.7 million in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie. Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and [also] include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

Now that 32 million Ashley Madison users have been exposed, it will be interesting to see where the aftermath and fallout of this scandal will lead. The reality of the situation catapulted by this data breach is that these are real people with real marriages who will now have to deal with very real issues regarding adultery.

However, California is a “no fault” divorce state, which means that neither spouse can place blame on the other spouse when filing for divorce. In order to get a “no fault” divorce, the couple only needs to cite “irreconcilable differences,” which means that there are fundamental differences in the marriage that cannot be resolved. Although some states consider adultery a criminal act, California does not.

California courts will not consider evidence of adultery when it comes to deciding whether or not to grant the remedies requested by the parties. Likewise, adultery and other forms of marital misconduct are not taken into consideration when determining alimony, also known as spousal support. Alimony is not intended to punish spouses for marital misconduct, but rather to assist the supported spouse in gaining financial independence.

While the Ashley Madison data breach is certain to prompt scandalous and juicy gossip, hopefully it will also lead to meaningful conversations between married couples about adultery and how it could potentially affect their marriages, before a lawyer needs to get involved. At the expense of Ashley Madison’s 32 million users, let this be a lesson learned!