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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Divorce Attorney's Advice to the Victims of the Ashley Madison Hack

So you've been hacked.  First, check if you name is on this list.  If so, within days, you know you are going to have a head-on with your spouse. Without further ado, here are some answers you are dying to know.

1.  Is cheating a crime?
Whether or not something is a crime is state-specific.  Currently, in 21 states, infidelity is considered a crime.  And thus, proscribed in the Penal Code (the law that governs crime, not what it sounds like, sickos).  Yes, New York falls in this list.  And so does Arizona, Illinois, and Massachusetts.   And Georgia.  California does NOT proscribe crime.  HOWEVER, in California, you have a legal obligation under the Family Code to be faithful to your spouse.  Seems like a lot of people don't do their duties.

2.  Ok.  It's a crime in my state.  (Need to move!)  What's the time?
It's state-specific.  In Maryland, adultery is a misdemeanor, and you get fined $10.

3.  It's not a crime.  But what about lawsuits?
Shockingly, there are SEVEN (lucky 7!) states that recognize the tort (civil wrong) of "alienation of affection"!  This means that in these states, your SPOUSE that you cheated on can SUE your mistress for alienating your affections, and claim damages (hospital bills, loss of wages, any other provable damages).  Yes: Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, and of course, UTAH!  If you live in the lucky 7, and you are the spouse of the victim of the hack, pray that at least the mistress is rich!!!  And victims, if you cheat in one of these states, at LEAST pick rich mistresses.  You owe your wife (or husband) that much.

4.  So now do I lose everything in the divorce?
Yes.  Wait, define everything.  If you guys don't get counseling, your marriage is over.  THAT.  IS.  EVERYTHING!  But, if you are selfish and don't care much about the marriage, then no, it's not over.  If you have children, some problems may occur.  (Yes, you can STILL be a good parent even though you are a dirty, rotten no-good cheater.  However, try to convince your spouse that!  Divorces get ugly when one person fights).  You may have heard the term "no-fault" state.  This doesn't mean what you think it means.  Basically, all states don't require "fault" anymore to get a divorce.  Historically, women (typically the one wanting the divorce) had to PROVE that their husbands beat them, or cheated on them in order for the courts to grant a divorce.  THAT is what proving "fault" means.  Somewhere along the line, people mistakenly reinterpreted "fault divorce" to mean "wrong-doing gets you less in the divorce".  This may be  true in some states, like Texas, but not in California.  In SOME states, proving fault may prevent you from receiving alimony.

5.  I bought my mistress a house and a basketball team.  Does she have to return it?
Oh wait, wrong story.

6.  Will I lose custody?
Not necessarily.  Just because you suck as a spouse does not mean you are a bad parent.  At least not in all Judge's eyes.  You may find though, that because of your repulsive behavior, your spouse may be angry for a while, which may make it difficult to co-parent.

7.  Will my divorce be expensive?

In all seriousness, if you are the victim of this hack, my heart sincerely goes out to you.  It seems unfair that SO many people cheat, and only YOU (and the 26 million users who used their real email accounts) got caught.  I truly hope that amongst all the decisions you made in your life, you at least chose a spouse who is not only compassionate, but forgiving with a short memory.  The aftermath of all this won't be easy to handle.  Personally, as a divorce lawyer, I am not looking forward to all these calls coming in due to the hack.  Cheating is a red herring.  The marriage was already having issues.  I would recommend that both of you take great measures to SAVE your marriage.  I once went to a couples seminar, and learned that 3 of 5 couples there suffered infidelity.  It, however, was NOT a deal breaker.  Cheating is usually a SYMPTOM, NOT the disease.  INVEST in a good couples therapist and commit to work on it.

That said, if all else fails, you know where to find me.