Infidelity is often considered a marriage-ender, and many people who are otherwise opposed to divorce consider it to be a justifiable reason to split up. But each couple handles infidelity differently, including what “counts” as cheating and what doesn’t.
That being said, one of the latest data breaches caused by online hacking could spell serious trouble for countless marriages here in Missouri and around the country. According to news sources, hackers have accessed personal data on about 37 million users of a hugely successful website catering to those seeking an affair. Hackers of the “Ashley Madison” site have threatened to make the stolen data publicly available.
The media has already predicted that such a move would lead to an explosion in divorce rates and high-value settlements for cheated-on spouses. However, that prediction may be inaccurate for a number of reasons.
First, as we mentioned above, people handle news of infidelity in different ways. In some cases, cheating is a deal-breaker, and the divorce will come swiftly. In other cases, couples may try to work it out by attending therapy together.
Second, infidelity does not tip the scales in divorce the way that it once did. Every state now offers some version of no-fault divorce, meaning that couples don’t need to assign blame for the breakdown of the marriage. While the cheated-upon spouse will likely feel that they have the upper hand in divorce proceedings, the judge may choose to treat an infidelity-related divorce the same as a no-fault divorce.
Infidelity could impact the divorce settlement if the unfaithful spouse feels great guilt and remorse. In such cases, the cheated-upon spouse may use that guilt as emotional leverage to obtain a more favorable settlement.
Finally, infidelity could actually make divorce proceedings worse for both spouses. Divorce requires clear-headed, rational decisions during a time when our judgment is often clouded by our emotions. Some of the biggest financial mistakes people make during divorce are fueled by hurt, anger and sadness. Infidelity often makes divorce more acrimonious, which could in turn make it longer, less-productive and more expensive for both sides.
With hacking now becoming such a common crime, it was only a matter of time before hackers turned their attention to an infidelity website like Ashley Madison. Still, we must hope that, however this plays out, most couples will be able to mitigate the consequences and reach the best resolution in each case.