Tonight’s post on divorce, Ashley Madison style, was written by our Gainesville and Lawrenceville divorce attorney, Jennifer Thuy-Tien McCall.
The Ashley Madison story that broke this week has sparked a national conversation about marital infidelity. Ashley Madison is an online dating service marketed to people in supposedly committed relationships. Its slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Of course, none of the over 30 million Ashley Madison account holders realized just how leaky such online services could be when they signed up. Anonymous discreet sex? Well, not so much.
It did not take long for the news to hit Facebook. I woke up one morning last week to find that one of my good friends posted about the release of these cheaters. She tagged me in her comment: “You might get even busier, friend.”
Indeed, in our family law line of work, we often see clients who have been hurt by an affair. We also see clients who had the affair. There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding what an infidelity means to you in your divorce.
In Georgia, you can file for a no fault divorce, where you cite irreconcilable differences. You can also attempt to obtain a fault divorce on various grounds including adultery.
Typically, adultery doesn’t affect custody. The Court is not supposed to use children as a weapon to punish the adulterer. Being a bad spouse doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad parent, but sometimes these two aspects of adult life intersect. If the adulterous behavior was harmful to the children, it will be a factor in determining custody.
Infidelity generally has more impact on property division than on custody arrangements. When dividing property, Georgia is an equitable division state. Equitable division means what is fair and while it doesn’t necessarily mean 50/50, it often does. When the divorce is based on fault – and adultery is indeed a fault – this can impact the division of property.
In Georgia, if the divorce was caused by infidelity, then the philanderer is barred from receiving alimony.
On the other hand, if you learn of your spouse’s affair but continue marital relations, then the Court may find that you have forgiven and condoned the affair and may not grant you a divorce on the grounds of adultery. You could still seek a no fault divorce however.
If you’ve caught your spouse or if you’re the one who has been caught, you should consult a family law attorney to determine your rights, your responsibilities and your risks. Though the myths often overstate the importance of adultery in divorce proceedings, marital infidelity does indeed have consequences in the courtroom.
Ashley Madison has teeth, after all.
Jennifer Thuy-Tien McCall’