Will being on the Ashley Madison website where ‘life is short, have an affair’ lead to ‘life is short, get a divorce’?

In recent weeks the Ashley Madison website has made worldwide headlines. With a motto of “life is short, have an affair” and a reported 37 million worldwide subscribers to a website marketed at extra-marital affairs it is little surprise that people are interested and indeed many people may be worried that the leaking of their details on the website may mean the end of their marriage. There are reports that the leaks of the website will lead to increased work for family lawyers however we are yet to see this occur. News.com reported that Brisbane was number 14 on a list of the top 25 cities in the world with 118,857 accounts. Whilst the Gold Coast did not get a mention, given the notorious title of the Divorce capital of Australia, we wonder how many subscribers there are amongst us on the Gold Coast.

We expect that many people are worried what effect, if any, being a subscriber to the Ashley Madison website may have on your divorce and property settlement. As a starting point it is important to know that in Australia there is no fault divorce. This means there is no need to prove adultery or otherwise to apply for a Divorce. You only need to satisfy the Court that your marriage has irretrievably broken down which is evidenced by 12 months of separation.  You do not however have to wait 12 months from separation to have a property settlement, you can commence negotiating or commence court proceedings for property settlement immediately after separation.

We expect many people may worry about what impact an extra-marital affair may have when it comes time to divide the assets and wonder “If one spouse has an affair does that mean the ‘wronged’ spouse will receive more of the assets?” Unfortunately for the ‘wronged’ spouse and fortunately for the adulterous spouse, which may include thousands of subscribers to the Ashley Madison website in Australia, only in very limited circumstances will an affair be relevant in a property settlement. An affair will only become relevant if it can be shown that the adulterous spouse spent significant monies in persuing extra-marital relationships to the financial detriment of the other spouse. For example it would be necessary to show that significant monies were spent on buying gifts, travel, accommodation and the like.

If you find yourself wanting to divorce your spouse and divide your assets, for whatever reason, we encourage parties to attempt in the first instance to resolve all outstanding matters without the intervention of the Court. In our experience emotional and angry spouses who engage in the legal process when they are not ready or have not tried to negotiate and instead are seeking revenge can find the process they engage in to be counter-productive and lead to increased and unnecessary legal fees. Our job here at McLaughlins Lawyers is to guide you through the legal process in the most efficient and cost effective way.

If you are separated, or thinking of separating and want to understand what your legal rights, obligations and entitlements are please contact McLaughlins Lawyers, your Gold Coast Family Lawyers on (07) 5591 5099 to arrange an initial consultation today.

Author: Nicole Fitzgibbon

Partner: Sophie Pearson

Date: 03/09/2015