One of the first things we tell our divorce clients is to avoid social media when possible. The hack of the website AshleyMadison.com, a dating site for married couples looking for satisfaction outside of their marriages, should serve as a reminder that you should always be very, very careful what you post online. Not only are users anxious about their financial information being exposed, but many are now worried that the most intimate details of their private lives will be open to the public, putting them at risk of humiliation – and divorce.
That humiliation can play a large role in the dissolution of your marriage, though perhaps not in the way you think.
The myth of adultery and alimony
Our clients often ask us if citing adultery as a ground for divorce will enable them to obtain larger alimony awards, and the short answer is most likely no: it will not. Alimony, or spousal support, is a subjective award granted by a judge based on a number of factors; the cause of the breakup of the marriage is one of the factors that the court will consider when making an alimony award. Accordingly, infidelity by a spouse may have some impact on such an award, but it is difficult to determine quantitatively what the impact was since it is but one of a host of factors considered. The length of your marriage as well as the amount of assets you each contribute to that marriage, for example, could weight more heavily in a judge’s determination than whether or not one spouse cheated on the other. However, you may receive an additional award, or a greater share of the assets, if your spouse used your joint money to pay for items or services for his or her lover in a way that depleted your assets in a substantial way. By and large, however, you are not automatically entitled to alimony just because your spouse was unfaithful.
Humiliation, however, is a powerful force: a spouse caught cheating may feel guilt, and therefore feel obliged to give a larger share of the assets to his or her partner to assuage those feelings. And a spouse who has been cheated on may ask for a divorce immediately out of humiliation or anger, which can lead to a contentious battle.
Whether you were the spouse who cheated or the spouse who was cheated on, it is crucial that you speak with a divorce attorney before you do anything else. You need someone with experience who can stay cool, calm and collected about what has happened, and offer you guidance about moving forward. Rushing into a divorce will simply make things more difficult, and one partner could ultimately end up paying more (or receiving less) than what is equitable.
We do not judge our clients; we never have. But we would like to offer you one final piece of advice – advice that comes from years of experience representing people in Maryland divorce courts: everything you put online is documented. Using a site like Ashley Madison does not guarantee confidentiality; if anything, it records a “paper” trail of your actions and intentions. If you are truly unhappy and do not want to remain married to your current partner, using a dating site – even one that promises discretion – only puts your future at risk.
Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC is one of Maryland’s premier family law and divorce firms. From our office in Annapolis, we proudly protect the rights and futures of clients throughout the state. We invite you to contact us to reserve a consultation time if you wish to discuss the divorce process.