14 February 2020 - Article
If you found out that your spouse was on the Ashley Madison dating website, would you want to divorce? Yes, no, maybe? Whatever you might choose to do, it raises the question of whether membership of the website is sufficient from a legal perspective to petition for divorce. Ashley Madison is a dating website for married people or those in committed relationships. Its slogan: 'Life is short, have an affair'. Recently the website's database was hacked and members' details publish online, including those of some high-profile individuals. The discovery that your spouse was a member of the website might be cause enough for you to decide that your marriage is over and that you want a divorce. But does simply being a member of such a website give sufficient grounds to petition for divorce? Yes and no. Under English law there are two facts which can be relied upon for a 'quick' divorce; adultery and unreasonable behaviour. Whilst appearing on the website would not amount to adultery (you'd need more than simply being on the website; you'd need proof of actual adultery), it may amount to unreasonable behaviour and that would be sufficient to petition for divorce. What about the impact on financial matters upon divorce? Could you be compensated because your husband or wife was a member of the website? That is unlikely in this country. The Courts rarely take conduct into account and will only do so where it would be inequitable to disregard it. Whatever your view about the morality of the website, the Court does not usually add morality or fault to the mix when making decisions about money. It is unlikely that a Court would think membership of the website is sufficient to impact on financial matters and the Court is likely to only consider the usual factors and focus on fairness based on sharing and needs.