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"Ashley Madison" Hackers Expose Cheaters- The Likely Impacts

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The exposure of millions of individual cheaters on the "Ashley Madison" site will undoubtedly lead to pointed questions by innocent spouses, but what will be the long term impacts?

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By Attorney Jeffrey B. Engle, Divorce Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

There is no requirement under Pennsylvania law that an individual be caught in the act of adultery for an uninjured spouse to claim "indignities" in a divorce complaint. Rather, one must only show that there is opportunity and the cheating spouse is of a pre-disposed mind to engage in such conduct to establish a presumption of adultery.  One's engagement of the "Ashely Madison" site may not be proof alone of marital infidelity. However, if there is additional evidence of efforts to engage in adulterous behavior, such as chats, texts, emails, and admissions of such behavior; that may be enough.

Does this mean I can get a divorce?

The PA Divorce Code was amended long ago in 1980 to allow spouses to obtain a divorce without proof of abuse, infidelity, abandonment, cruel and barbarous treatment, and lack of sexual intimacy among the reasons for a divorce.  Rather, a spouse need only plead that there is an "irretrievable breakdown" in the relationship to properly perfect a divorce complaint.  So, the legal impact in Pennsylvania of the Ashley Madison site debacle is minimal in this regard.

Does it help my case if I found that my spouse has cheated?

It certainly doesn't hurt your case if we have proof that your spouse is a "cheater." The Divorce Code provides for 17 factors to determine what future alimony payments will look like.  These include the following:

The 17 Factors of Alimony in PA 

  1. The relative earnings of both spouses. 

  2. The duration of the marriage.

  3. The ages and physical, mental and emotional states of the two spouses.

  4. The sources of income of both spouses. This includes medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.

  5. The expected future earnings and inheritances of the two spouses.

  6. The degree to which one spouse has contributed to the other spouse's education, training or increased earning potential.

  7. The degree to which a spouse will be financially affected by their position as the custodian of a minor child.

  8. The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage.

  9. The relative education of the parties. This also considers the amount of time it would take for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire the education or training necessary to find employment.

  10. The relative assets and liabilities of the two spouses.

  11. The property each spouse brought to the marriage.

  12. The degree a spouse contributed as a homemaker.

  13. The relative needs of the two spouses.

  14. The marital misconduct of either of the spouses during the marriage

  15. The federal, state and local tax consequences of the alimony.

  16. Whether the spouse seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including items in Chapter 35 relating to property rights, to provide for their reasonable needs.

  17. Whether the spouse seeking alimony is incapable of supporting themselves through appropriate employment.

You will note that marital misconduct has been highlighted.  For those that have previously been holding onto a marriage that was less than appealing, they may now have a viable reason to end the marriage and further, a monetary incentive. If you are the injured spouse and these factors weigh in support of your position for alimony, the revelation of marital infidelity may provide an additional factor in your favor.  Alternatively, this may be huge if you are an injured spouse and are the breadwinner or if there is a prenuptial agreement that excuses you from alimony or equitable distribution for infidelity.

The likely impact, in this regard, may be a huge spike in divorce complaints from both types of injured spouses.  Those that do not earn the lion's share or any income for the relationship.  Or, those that do earn the majority or sole income for the relationship but do not want to lose everything in the divorce.

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