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The hacking of the Ashley Madison website and threats to release details of potential adulterers has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. The hackers, who have named themselves the “Impact Team,” assert their motivation was to reveal the fact that it was impossible to permanently delete all traces of using the site. Even though a “full delete” service is offered by Ashley Madison, bank records and other personal information, even sexual preferences and fantasies, will remain stored by the provider. The cynics however believe that theft of this amount of personal data is motivated by the potentially very large financial gains to be had from selling the information. Not an unreasonable position given the amount of media reporting on what would otherwise be a common occurrence but for the purpose of the website.

The hacking has grabbed the attention of the world’s media because it provides an insight into the scale of extra marital affairs. With 37 million users worldwide the company is valued at US $1 billion. Noel Biederman, the company’s founder, clearly has hit upon an unpleasant truth in offering a service that guarantees to find someone to cheat with.

According to statistics there are 1.2 million British users, that’s approximately 5% of the married population in Britain, who are embroiled in or looking for an affair. Following this hack they will now be facing the reality that arranging affairs online carries all the risks of real world adultery.

Adultery is one reason the court can allow a married couple to divorce without delay. This means that sex has to have happened. It is not enough to have discovered that a spouse has been actively seeking an affair or engaged in lesser forms of sexual activity. Curiously, same sex relationships do not amount to adultery but are considered “improper association” instead.

However, discovering adultery is not in itself enough. It has to be accepted by the other spouse, who must be willing to admit to their actions.  The spouse who starts divorce proceedings, the “Petitioner”, must also find it intolerable to remain married to a cheating spouse. It is important to act quickly. If you continue to live together, as a married couple for more than 6 months after uncovering the affair, you cannot rely on adultery as a ground for divorce. There are also other options available and the family and divorce lawyers at Debenhams Ottaway can advise you.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.