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Divorce in the Information Age: Lessons from the Ashley Madison Hack

By Brian K. Tackett

The tagline for Ashley Madison is: “Life it Short. Have an affair.” This is a website specifically marketed to married people who want to have an affair. It boasts “over 40,915,000 anonymous members.” Uh Oh! How many of those 40+ million “anonymous” users thought they would be outed by a hacker?

For as long as anyone can remember, cheating has been a divorce issue. The Ashley Madison hack is a not so gentle reminder that spouses cheat, cheaters get caught, and cheating leads to divorce. But there are lessons to be learned.

It’s Easier to Cheat

The World Wide Web has completely changed our lives. Who needs a Mapsco when you have google maps on your phone? Who needs a smoky bar when you have Who needs a feed store when you have Dating websites make it easy to connect with others with similar interests. There is also a multitude of hookup sites. It began with Craigslist and AOL chatrooms. Now Tinder, Hinge, and other hookup apps have made unseemly sex, seamless and easy. Gone are the days of awkwardly introducing yourself to a stranger. Now, all you have to do is swipe left.

It’s Easier to Catch a Cheater

The days of the private investigator are not completely gone. But now technology allows you to be the detective. GPS trackers, spyware, nanny cams, and spy apps open a world of possibilities. If you suspect your spouse is cheating, with a little time and effort, you’ll know.

By the way, if you would like to find out if a particular email account is registered with Ashley Madison, here’s a nifty little search tool:

Social Media

The addictive and secretive nature of social media has shot up as a leading cause for divorce. While privacy settings and personal messages give a false sense of anonymity, relationships are breaking down due to Facebook flirting, wandering eyes and adultery initiated through computer screens. The term “Facebook divorce” is actually rising in our society, referring to the increasing number of failing marriages due to social media.

Whether engaged in an affair or not, if you’re going through a divorce, it’s best to refrain from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram use at all. If you choose to continue to use social media, keep in mind that skilled digital forensic professionals can recover messages, photos, or posts that have been deleted. So, it’s always best to keep personal information offline. Even seemingly harmless posts and photos may be turned against you.


If you’re contemplating a divorce, many of your passwords will need to be changed. Change the passwords to all email addresses, social media, bank accounts, and credit card accounts. Figure out whether your spouse is able to reset your passwords. If so, your spouse likely has an email address tied to the account. If it’s your own personal or individual account, remove your spouse’s email address. If it is a joint account, do not limit your spouse’s ability to access the account.

The Ashley Madison hack revealed that with people are surprisingly unimaginative when it comes to choosing passwords. Chances are your spouse knows your top two or three passwords. Even if that’s not the case, you make is a whole lot easier for your spouse to access your online accounts if you use passwords such as “12345”, “qwerty”, or “password.”

Adultery In a Divorce Case

Texas is considered a “no-fault” divorce state. That means that the court does not have to find a party “at-fault” in order to grant the divorce. Adultery may be a basis for fault in the breakup of a marriage. Adultery affects divorce cases in a number of ways. If a court finds that a spouse committed adultery, the court can award the non-offending spouse a disproportionate share of community property. Waste of community assets in furtherance of an affair would likewise affect the property division. There may also be consequences if the children were exposed to the affair. That type of lapse in judgment would most certainly be considered in a child custody dispute.

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