August 25, 2015
Is your name on the Ashley Madison list of marital cheaters? You may not have much to worry about -- at least in divorce court, according to Philadelphia-area lawyers.
But repercussions could play out over time, especially with the financial data that got hacked, cautioned attorneys in the region who, so far, have not noticed an uptick in calls due to the Ashley Madison data dump.
There is just one small loophole where use of the website could factor into divorce proceedings in Pennsylvania, said Philadelphia lawyer Patrick Cooper, and none in New Jersey.
If a cheating spouse’s behavior caused the marital rift and that spouse is a lower earner, the affair could lessen that person’s financial support in Pennsylvania, said Cooper, a point echoed by Philadelphia lawyer Maura Boogay.
The greatest risk for that tiny loophole is in a separation, not a divorce, she said.
"Some courts would let mention of it in, but it does not have much relevance. It just doesn't get any consideration," said Boogay, litigation manager for the Philadelphia office of law firm Cordell & Cordell.
Lawyer James Rocco, who practices in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, said finding a spouse using the so-called cheater’s site is also not the same as proving adultery.
So far, the search continues for the hackers behind the data breach, which Canadian police are blaming for two unconfirmed reports of suicide. Because personal financial data was breached, the investigation now includes international law enforcement, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Canadian federal and provincial police are also assisting – the company is headquartered in Toronto.
Three-year-old data put the number of users in the Philadelphia area at more than 200,000, making it last on the list of 25 cities where the site was popular. The site had 124 million visits per month before reports of the data breach.
Cooper said anyone who had their financial data exposed should immediately take steps to protect themselves, such as contacting credit monitoring companies.
And they should cancel the card that was used, he added.
But he said there is no universal advice when it comes to how to handle telling a partner about secretly using the site.
“Some spouses may already know (about the cheating). Every marriage is different. It is a very personal reaction. A habitual liar and cheater is not going to change,” said Cooper.
Psychotherapist Marcus Krohner, who practices in Philadelphia, said the popularity of the website before it was breached is an indication “something is changing, and not just sexual attitudes."
“People are less likely to float along now in a mediocre relationship,” he said, and not feel fulfilled. “It is part of wanting a partner with connections,” he said.
He has not noticed an uptick in calls and said the site has only been mentioned “in passing” by previous clients.
He said the shaming that has accompanied the info dump is “dangerous” and he called the reports of suicides “horrific.”
Avid Life Media Inc, the parent company of the website, is now offering a $500,000 reward after police announced they are investigating several possible suicides as a result of the information being exposed.
Lawyers have launched a class-action lawsuit against the company and individuals, some listed only as “John Doe,” are also suing.
The company has postponed a stock offering amid the turmoil.