If you aren't on the Ashley Madison database, at first blush
the leak may seem exciting and an opportunity to see what's
been going on in other people's lives, even better still if
it's people you know. But for those on the database its
potential impact is far reaching and potentially devastating.
The Ashley Madison website, with its slogan "Life is short.
Have an affair" is marketed to facilitate extramarital
relationships. The users of this website had their personal
information disclosed to the public revealing the alleged cheaters.
By now, if you aren't directly affected you may know someone
who has been. As a divorce lawyer I'm most concerned about the
inescapable impact on families. The uncovered truths of what people
have been up to on the Ashley Madison website will shake some
households and potentially destroy families.
Australia has "no fault" divorce which means that the
court isn't interested in whether or not someone had an affair.
But the reality is that an affair will often lead to the decision
to separate and end the marriage.
Before "no fault" divorce was introduced (came into
effect in 1976) to get a divorce you had to prove that there were
grounds for divorce - that one of the parties was at fault, without
it the divorce would not be granted. The reason for the end of the
marriage affected how much of the assets a spouse walked away with
and what they had to pay to the other. The innocent party generally
"did better" than the one at fault.
"No fault" divorce means that the court doesn't
want to hear about the reasons for the marriage breakdown. Parties
can just decide they've had enough and want to end the
marriage. Sometimes one of the parties doesn't want to get
divorced but the divorce will be granted because all that needs to
be shown is that they've lived separately for 12 months.
The reality is that the reasons for the marriage breakdown often
impact on parties being able to reach an agreement on financial
matters and parenting arrangements. Also if the marriage ended due
to mental illness of one of the parties, this will have an impact
on parenting arrangements going forward.
The intention of introducing "no fault" divorce was to
take the "heat out" of disputes. Unfortunately, it
hasn't had the desired effect. This is because there isn't
an opportunity to openly address the issues and get them off ones
chest, they linger. In my experience, mediation and collaboration
provide the appropriate forum to talk things through but the court
system doesn't provide that same opportunity. Often as soon as
the issue has been addressed the rest of the jigsaw puzzle seems to
fall into place bringing about a resolution.
In my view, those affected by the Ashley Madison leak should
avoid making hasty decisions no matter on which side of the leak
they find themselves. At the very least, they should obtain sound
and cool headed advice and give themselves every opportunity to
carefully consider their options. Let's hope that the families
affected by this situation are able to make their way to the other
Sect.117 can deal with false statements and knowingly making false allegations of violence could justify a costs order.
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