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How Would Finding Your Spouse on the Ashley Madison List Affect Your Divorce?

08/21/2015 12:05 EDT | Updated 08/21/2016 05:59 EDT
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Cheating often marks the end of the line for many marriages; the sense of betrayal and loss of trust can be insurmountable barrier to reconcile. With the recent Ashley Madison hack and the release of information for the affair-oriented dating site, it is no surprise that the internet is making wise-cracks about excited divorce lawyers rubbing their hands together in glee.

But aside from being the final nail on the coffin, how would finding your spouse on the Ashley Madison list affect your divorce?

As the saying goes: it depends.

Breakdown of Marriage

Right off the bat, most are probably wondering whether they can use the fact that their spouse cheated using on the dating site as a stepping stone to divorce.

The legal answer? Sure, why not -- so long there was an actual physical sexual relationship.

In Canada, if you can prove a breakdown of marriage because your spouse committed adultery, you can apply for divorce without waiting the full year of living separately. If they deny adultery, all those leaked sexy pics and raunchy message logs reliving that kinky weekend might help to establish infidelity.

Practically speaking though, using adultery to prove a breakdown of marriage may not be as satisfying as you hoped.

No-Fault Divorce

Blame them all you want, but adulterous escapades are legally moot in Canada because we have a no-fault divorce regime. Even if it is the cheating cheater's fault that the marriage ended (because of their cheating, duh), it has no legal effect on either spouse's rights to support, custody, access, or property.

Just because there is proof they were unfaithful does not mean you will get more or that they will get less child or spousal support, as a form of punishment for bad behaviour.

Additionally, unless the two-timing spouse's rampant sexual congress negatively hinders their ability to act as a parent, the court does not care about it when deciding custody and access of the children. Both parents have equal right to custody.

Adultery is only relevant in divorce if it impacts the family's finances during marriage or the adulterer's ability to pay child support. For example, the leaked data and some detective work could be useful to prove a cheating spouse wasted money on adulterous habits with pictures or posts about purchasing diamonds, furs, or other luxuries. If the amount spent is significant enough, you might be able to make an improvident depletion claim for more than half of the value of matrimonial assets in property division. Similarly, such evidence might shoot down a cheater's claim of poverty and being unable to afford paying child support by demonstrating a wealthier lifestyle than they purport to have.

Escalation of Conflict

The greatest impact of the Ashley Madison leak on your divorce depends on your reaction to finding your spouse on the list. A partner's betrayal can be devastating, even if it you suspected it beforehand. It may be tempting to lash out at them, but take the advice of divorce lawyers everywhere -- don't.

Letting your anger twist your ability to act reasonably in the divorce process not only squanders your time and money, it wastes your lawyer's and the court's time, too. This will not only unnecessarily escalate marital conflict; but also will infect every other aspect of your life for the worst.

Spousal conflict turns the home into a hostile battle ground where children are caught in the middle. It may be cathartic to scream that your spouse is a 'perverted cheating scumbag,' but that is your child's mom or dad you are disparaging. Such rage is infectious and children are most vulnerable. Even short-term exposure to conflict can have negative long-term emotional and psychological impact on a child.

Ask yourself, is unfettering your righteous fury to get back at a cheating ex-spouse worth your child's well-being and future therapy bills?

The right answer is no.

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