Ashley Madison Breach Creates Issues In Divorce Cases

The adultery website Ashley Madison is facing yet another potential class-action lawsuit, in the wake of a serious data breach in August 2015. What impact, if any, does this development have on property division actions in Illinois?

In the latest action, California resident “John Doe” claims that the website's parent company, Canada-based Avid Life Media, failed to permanently delete account records, despite its promises to do so and collection of an additional $19 fee from each member. The lawsuit also states that the company negligently failed to take the proper precautions to protect “particularly sensitive” information that users submitted, given the rash of high-profile hacks over the past several years. Finally, court papers claim that Avid Life Media failed to promptly disclose the breach to possibly-affected members.

The lawsuit demands unspecified damages.

Adultery in Property Division Matters

Fault in the breakup of the marriage – including adulterous conduct – is not admissible in a divorce property division matter. However, a clever lawyer may be able to get this information before the judge and, perhaps more importantly, make adultery, or even attempted adultery, a matter of public record.

Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, dissipation of marital property is a factor in determining an equitable property division. Although waste is typically associated with items like failing to maintain real property or an ostentatious and extravagant lifestyle, purchasing gifts for a girlfriend, or even using funds from a paycheck (which is marital property) to pay membership fees on a website, may also qualify as dissipation.

The length of the marriage is yet another factor. An argument can be made that if Husband had not committed adultery, the marriage would have lasted longer, and Wife would therefore be entitled to a greater share of the marital property.

If nothing else, marital infidelity may be used as leverage during settlement negotiations. If Wife possesses evidence of Husband's adultery, he may think twice before rejecting a somewhat unfavorable settlement offer and proceeding to trial. The same logic applies earlier in the process: Husband may come to the bargaining table to avoid disclosing embarrassing and potentially damaging information. This is particularly true if Husband is a government or military employee, as adultery is grounds for revocation of a security clearance or even termination, in some cases.

For a confidential consultation with anexperienced Naperville divorce attorney who tenaciously fights for your share of the marital estate, contact our office. Convenient payment plans are available.


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