In some parts of the country, divorce lawyers are expecting a surge of new clients after two releases this week of stolen data from Ashley Madison, the dating site for married folks.
On Tuesday, hackers posted the names, addresses, logins, email addresses and reportedly partial credit card numbers belonging to millions of the website’s 39 million users. A second release of data was revealed Thursday.
So far, only one famous name has been spotted on the list: Josh Duggar, the embattled member of the “19 Kids and Counting” reality TV show who in May admitted to inappropriately touching his sisters when he was a teen.
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After his name was seen on the Ashley Madison client list, he also admitted to being “unfaithful to my wife.”
No word yet on whether his wife, Anna, will seek a divorce after this second round of bad news. But one attorney described the expected wave of spurned Ashley Madison spouses as “the tsunami.”
But that’s not the case for lawyers in Kansas and Missouri, where adultery rarely affects the outcome of divorce cases.
In Missouri, an extramarital affair would be considered marital misconduct, “but it’s rare that it makes an extreme impact” because a spouse doesn’t have to prove that something bad, such as adultery, happened to get a divorce, says Kansas City family law attorney Allen S. Russell Jr.
Missouri is a no-fault state, meaning that it’s not necessary to show that either party was at fault.
Infidelity? The court usually doesn’t care. But the court must conclude that the marriage is irretrievably broken and can’t be saved.
And in Kansas, where parties can cite incompatibility as grounds for divorce, “there are some ways that (infidelity) becomes an issue, but in most cases it doesn’t come up,” says Russell, who hasn’t gotten any inquiries tied to the Ashley Madison lists.
Adultery is not grounds for divorce in Kansas and it’s only rarely considered by judges deciding on alimony payments.
The real fallout for exposed Ashley Madison members will be the guilt and embarrassment of getting caught, New York City family law attorney Jacqueline Newman wrote in a commentary for CNBC.
“Judges do not often concern themselves with infidelity,” Newman wrote. “Therefore, even if the spouse finds out about his/her spouse being a member of Ashley Madison and all of the gory details of his/her sexual exploits, it will not typically affect divorce litigation and often may not even become an issue brought to the court’s attention.
“The only way a judge would be interested in a litigant’s love life would be if it affects the children of the marriage or the finances.”
But apparently some spouses have questions about that.
The Huffington Post called the Manhattan-based divorce firm Yaniv & Associates this week after the Ashley Madison client list became public and was told that “the attorneys are unavailable because there are so many people calling right now.”
The data were allegedly stolen by a hacker group calling itself the Impact Team, which vowed to publish personal information on the “cheating dirtbags” who use Ashley Madison unless the site got shut down.
AshleyMadison.com – which uses the motto “Life is short. Have an affair” – was still active on Friday.
It’s not easy to find the hacked client lists. As explained by Wired, a 9.7-gigabyte data dump was posted on Tuesday to the dark Web using an Onion address accessible only through the Tor browser. (The dark Web is a collection of websites with hidden IP addresses of the servers that run them, making them difficult to find.)
The data dump revealed on Thursday was even larger.
One analysis of email addresses in the first release showed about 15,000 are .mil (military) or .gov (government) addresses.
The Associated Press analyzed the email addresses in the first data dump and found that U.S. government employees with sensitive jobs in national security or law enforcement were among hundreds of federal workers using government networks to access and pay membership fees to the website.
The AP discovered that the list includes at least two assistant U.S. attorneys, an information technology administrator in the White House’s support staff, a Justice Department investigator and a government hacker/counterterrorism employee at the Homeland Security Department.
The data also revealed descriptions of what members were seeking.
In Josh Duggar’s case, for instance, Gawker reports that his Ashley Madison “wants” included “Conventional Sex,” “One-Night Stands,” “Open to Experimentation,” “Gentleness,” “Good With Your Hands,” Sensual Massage,” “Extended Foreplay/Teasing,” and “Bubble Bath for 2.”
“With this release of data, every curious spouse in America is going to check to see if their partner is on this list,” Susan M. Moss, a New York attorney, told The Huffington Post.
“This will lead to an influx of more divorces – or at the very least some very difficult conversations.”
Kansas City lawyer Russell says the bigger lesson to be learned from the Ashley Madison hack is that very little is private anymore, primarily because of social media.
“It’s not nearly like it was five, 10 years ago,” Russell said. “Nothing’s private. Everybody’s got a camera and a phone. There’s very little any more that goes on in anyone’s life that’s not public.”