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Life May Be Short, But Is An Affair Worth It?

The news that the website of the married dating service Ashley Madison has been hacked may have led some of its clients to worry what would happen if their spouses find out they are using the service. But need they be concerned?

For those who have not heard of Ashley Madison, it is a site that offers married people the opportunity of having a ‘discreet’ affair, via a dating service. The site’s slogan is: “Life is short. Have an affair.” Unfortunately for Ashley Madison, the site was recently targeted by hackers, who apparently stole its clients’ data.

What would be the family law implications of their data being disclosed for any clients in this country?

The first thing to say is that registering with the site, and even dating with someone introduced to you via the site, does not amount to adultery for the purpose of divorce proceedings (adultery must have actually been committed, and must be proved). However, using the site may well be considered unreasonable behaviour, and so could be used as evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Whether using the site alone would amount to sufficient unreasonable behaviour to prove irretrievable breakdown would depend upon how the court views the evidence, but certainly actually having an affair is likely to be sufficient (although in most cases there is other evidence of unreasonable behaviour in any event).

Richard Howlett - Solicitor

Richard Howlett - Solicitor



Having your spouse prove that the marriage broke down as a result of your unreasonable behaviour, or even as a result of your adultery, does not of itself affect any financial/property settlement following a divorce – the only financial implication is likely to be that you will have to pay their costs. Note that this only means their costs of the divorce itself, and not any costs relating to sorting out arrangements for any children, or sorting out the financial/property settlement. The divorce costs are likely to be minimal, if the divorce is undefended.

So, the family law implications of being found to be using a site like Ashley Madison may not seem very great. However, many of those who use such sites are probably attracted to them precisely because they are supposed to be discreet, i.e. they give the user a chance to have an extra-marital affair and ‘get away with it’. Obviously, if the site is hacked then they may not get away with it and even if the legal implications may seem small, the implications for the user’s marriage may be very profound indeed.

The hacking of the website also serves as a useful reminder that details stored online are never 100% secure. Of course, if you suffer financial loss as a result of your data being stolen, then you may be entitled to financial compensation. However, no compensation can mend a broken marriage.

The moral must therefore be: think very carefully before you use such a site.

To speak with a solicitor at Selachii LLP call 02077925649 or email info@selachii.co.uk

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