The company Ashley Madison has been in the news this week, after their website was hacked and their user details were made public.  This would be awful for anyone, but the sting in the tail is that the Ashley Madison website was designed to assist individuals in having affairs.  Their tagline is “Life is short. Have an affair”.

Unsurprisingly therefore, there has been a conflicting attitude from the public about whether the details of Ashley Madison users should be released on the internet.  Some argue that those people get what’s coming to them, others are more sympathetic to the possibility that someone signed up out of curiosity only.

Now that they have been released, it is worth noting what affects adultery has on the breakdown of a marriage.

By way of background, adultery is one of the five facts that someone must choose in order to complete a petition for divorce.  The person sending in the petition is called the petitioner, and they have to detail within their petition what adultery the other party has committed.  If an accusation of adultery could have a long term negative effect on the other party, and they know it is inaccurate, then they may defend this accusation or refuse to consent to the petition being sent to Court.

In most circumstances, an accusation of adultery within the petition will not have an overall effect on the divorce process.  The Courts will rarely penalise a party for being an adulterer, unless it can be shown that their actions reduced the funds in the marriage.  For example, if one spouse decided to buy their new partner an expensive gift and the funds were taken out of a joint account.  Nevertheless, a wronged party may be far less likely to compromise on divided up assets from the marriage if they are angry and upset about an affair.  This resentment can create an acrimonious situation which will only cost both parties unnecessary legal fees.

Furthermore, if the parties have entered into a pre-nuptial agreement prior to marriage, which can be altered by adultery, then clearly a discovery such as the one above can have serious financial ramifications.  Furthermore, if the petitioner then accuses that person of committing adultery within the divorce petition, and the other party agrees to that petition, then this could have a greater effect on their assets going forward.

To summarise, if you reach a stage in your marriage where adultery is a real possibility, then perhaps think about discussing the future of your relationship before going down that road.  Whilst the Courts may not penalise you for your actions, it could lead to an acrimonious break up which in turn could cost you a lot of money.  Life is short, so try not to spend it fighting in a court room.

If you need to speak to Surrey law firm rhw Solicitors about matters on family law, please call 01483 302 000 or email