I am a divorce lawyer. Based upon something I read over the weekend, this appears to be a great year to be a divorce lawyer. What, you ask, is the cause of all of this gleeful (stated tongue in cheek) optimism? I was reading the New York Post on Saturday and came upon a story entitled “Cheating on your Partner – The Hottest Resolution of 2014.” For the person that has blogged about The New Year’s Resolution Divorce on this blog for the last several years, the headline certainly grabbed my attention.
The story reported that AshleyMadison.com, “a dating site for married people looking for an affair”, had 27,000 new members on January 3rd. Lest anyone think that this is just a “man thing”, of the profiles, about 16,500 were from men and 11,000 from women. That is a 60-40 split. Why is this good for divorce lawyers? Cheaters often get caught, or want to get caught subconsciously, because they may not have the guts to pull the plug on a bad marriage and just get divorced. I have heard a marriage counselor once say that adultery is often a sympton of a problem, rather than the problem itself. I would probably agree with that sentiment, other than those serial adulterers who do it just for the sport it.
That said, we know that, other than possibly for the cause of action for divorce (yes – the fault ground of adultery still exists in New Jersey), adultery has very little impact on the outcome of the case legally, unless marital assets were used to fund this extracurricular conduct. However, in many cases, it costs more to prove this than was actually spent on the affair.
There is, however, the non-legal impact of adultery, that impacts the case – the effect of the man or woman “scorned.” The revelation of and fall out from the the affair often makes the divorce case more difficult to navigate. The legal issues are not more difficult, mind you, but the emotional ones are.
This happens even in cases where the end of the marriage did not come out of the blue. I had a case once where the parties had been going to marriage counseling for some time and the counselor told the parties that the marriage was over. After that point, before starting the divorce process but after taking separate rooms in the house, one of the parties started a new relationship. When the divorce action started, the so-called “scorned” spouse, used this to make the process far more contentious and costly then need be. While my client was somewhat incredulous that this could be happening based upon what both parties were told by the marriage counselor, it didn’t matter. My response was that the timing of things was off. If you are going to get the divorce anyway, it is usually better to start the divorce before starting the new relationship.
That all said, one wonders whether divorce lawyers would be as gleeful if people spent as much time working on their marriages then they did working on their affairs. For better or worse, I probably don’t have to worry about that.
Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland and Morristown, New Jersey offices though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or firstname.lastname@example.org.