Jacksonville Divorce Lawyers - Beller & Bustamante, P.L.Recent news has been inundated with stories about the Ashley Madison hack. If you haven’t read past the headlines, you may not understand what the big deal is. The Ashley Madison website provides a place for people to meet, with the intent of having a secret affair. If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that the Internet does not keep secrets very well.

Unfortunately for many couples, the hack that revealed Ashley Madison’s customers may be the ultimate end to their marriage. In fact, the most common theory related to the hack is that divorce numbers will rise in the coming months. Only time will tell, but it may be worthwhile to discuss how a marriage is affected when one finds out that their spouse’s name is on the list of users.

Infidelity Is Not Always An Automatic Divorce Trigger

The presence of a spouse’s name on the Ashley Madison site doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve had an affair. If your spouse’s name is on the list, it could mean a few different things:

  1.     Someone else used your spouse’s information to sign up for an account.
  2.     The spouse did sign up, with the intent to have an affair.
  3.     The spouse signed up and did, in fact have an affair.

Regardless of the reason, finding out that your spouse’s name is on the list of users provides an opportunity to discuss what is happening in your marriage. An open dialogue about your feelings and expectations for the marriage has the potential to strengthen the marriage, even if infidelity is present. It really depends on the couple and the circumstances.

Infidelity as a Cause For Divorce

While divorce can be caused by an infinite number of factors, in Florida, proving infidelity is not necessary to file for divorce or to obtain a favorable settlement. As a society, we hold infidelity to be wrong and we acknowledge the pain that it can cause to those we have betrayed. However, in Florida, fault is not considered as grounds for divorce, but is rather a “no fault” state. By law, to obtain a divorce, or “dissolution of marriage” in Florida, you must show one of two things:

  1.     The marriage is irretrievably broken; or
  2.     One of the parties is mentally incapacitated.

Most people choose option one in Florida divorces, as it provides a broad reason that the marriage cannot continue, without getting into details that may become public and cause embarrassment.

Infidelity Does Not Play a Role in Property Distribution

Florida courts distribute property based on the principle of Equitable Distribution, in which marital assets are divided fairly between the parties. In a Florida dissolution proceeding, a judge will first award each spouse their own non-marital property, which is generally property that was owned by each person prior to getting married. Certain exceptions apply when determining if something is actually non-marital property, such as whether a spouse brought a home to the marriage as separate property, but then added the other spouse to the title.

After non-marital property is distributed, the judge will determine how to distribute the marital property. Under Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes, the judge will look to a number of factors to determine the distribution of marital property, including, but not limited to:

  1.     Spousal contributions to the marriage, including to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.
  2.     The spouse’s economic circumstances.
  3.     Marriage duration.
  4.     Career or educational interruptions for either party.
  5.     Contributions by one spouse to the other for education or career opportunities
  6.     Business considerations if one or both spouses have an interest in it.
  7.     The amount each spouse contributed to the income of the marriage.
  8.     Whether the marital home should remain in possession of one spouse for the benefit of a dependent child of the marriage.
  9.     Whether either spouse intentionally depleted or wasted marital assets within 2 years of filing for divorce.
  10.  Any other factors “necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.”

Infidelity and Spousal Support

Florida law does not take infidelity into account when determining whether to grant spousal support. There are a great number of factors that a judge must take into consideration in determining whether to grant spousal support and what that amount will be. Most factors take into account the receiving spouse’s financial need for the support and the giving spouse’s ability to provide that support.

If the spouse did have an affair and cohabitates with a new partner prior to the dissolution of the marriage, the judge may consider the income of the new partner in determining the spousal support amount.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation With An Attorney

If you believe that your spouse is cheating online or otherwise, talk to an experienced Florida divorce attorney first to explore your options. The caring attorneys at Beller & Bustamante, P.L. have helped countless families and individuals with matters including divorce and can discuss your situation at a confidential consultation. Call us at 904-288-4414 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.