Now that 32 million people have had their cheating ways made public due to the Ashley Madison hack, it's safe to assume some marriages are going to be ending. So, we reached out to divorce attorney Joseph E. Cordell of Cordell & Cordell to find out what he thinks about the leak, and what role it'll play in all of those inevitable divorces.
Have there been more calls coming in since the leak?
Cordell -- who's previously had clients who were caught on Ashley Madison -- has gotten a considerable amount of calls since the user data was leaked. "Mainly from men asking what impact the evidence would have on them in a divorce, and whether the evidence is admissible in court."
Is the evidence admissible?
"It varies from state to state, but for the most part, it's likely to be admissible, since the party offering the evidence -- their wives -- would have what's called 'clean hands,' meaning that they would not have engaged in any elicit or improper behavior -- instead, that was the action of the third party. There are a few states that probably would exclude [the evidence], but the majority of sates will permit it. The question becomes, what is its relevance?"
What would make the evidence relevant?
"It's often relevant, but in ways people might not expect. Most states have adopted a sort of 'no-fault' perspective to divorce. As a result, most states don't punish people in terms of property division or maintenance for marital misconduct. But, courts in virtually all states are willing to consider martial misconduct when it involves a misuse or dissipation of the party's assets -- so to the extent that any money has been used to pursue this relationship... courts will be interested."
Martial misconduct is also relevant when it comes to custody battles, "to the extent that it shows that somebody's lifestyle, or their habits, or the people that they have in their home would not be wholesome for the safety of the child and would affect the best interest of the child -- then it's relevant, and it's testimony that the court should and would hear.
How embarrassing is this going to get?
"So in cases like that, at a minimum, it becomes very embarrassing for the party -- the discovery of something like Ashley Madison would tend to stimulate a number of questions." Cordell also says that the other party may send out subpoenas if they know who their spouse cheated on them with, and they may bring that person in for a deposition.
"That kind of psychological warfare, I'd be worried the opposing council would be inclined to engage in that -- and that can occur in a lot of ways that embarrasses the client. But to the extent that it would have any impact on the best interest of the children, yeah, it's relevant for custody. And, for example, if it were the wife that had the affair, I would want to confirm the extent of the relationship. I would want to know more about this guy. And the moment I send out a subpoena to this guy, then guess what -- his wife now knows. So, it can spread like a bad cold. "