Tips for Keeping Your Divorce Out of the Public Eye

The last thing we want when going through a tough break-up is to battle it out in front of a packed courtroom. However, once you file for divorce, your personal financial information and custody battles become a public record as a matter of law.

The public can access your divorce information

The public (including your creditors, the media, or maybe that one nosy neighbor) now has a right to view all documents you file with the court as well as attend your court proceedings. Understandably, there are some instances where parties may not want their financial information or other aspects of their case to be public.

Perhaps you are a public figure who is concerned about how divulging personal or private information could affect your career or image. Or maybe your child has an IEP in place or receives state benefits for a disability, and you have a legitimate concern that (mis)information alleged by your spouse could limit the services available to your kids. Alternatively, perhaps you and your spouse own a business, are engaged in protracted litigation and do not want certain business information disseminated.

Options for those divorcing and concerned about privacy

You could file a Confidential Marital Settlement Agreement or request your file to be sealed

Portions of your file can be sealed from public access. Specifically, we're talking about sensitive financial information. But, even if both sides agree, the court may deny your request. "Freedom of the press" often trumps "right to privacy."

You could hire a private judge

It's less likely the media or an alternative party would appear (although by law, your proceedings should still be accessible). What's more, you can get orders without appearing in court and submit documents directly to a private judge. However, the public may still have the right to attend proceedings before a private judge, and most documents that are provided to the judge must first be filed with the court.

You could try mediation

No documents must be filed with the court while parties are engaged in negotiation. Many consider it the safest route because you can reach agreements without involving the court, thus decreasing the odds of any "dirt" leaking out. Mediation is also less expensive. 

On the downside, both parties must agree to participate. And, if you're doing informal disclosures of information, there are limited legal safeguards, and you're trusting your spouse to be forthcoming with information. The possibility of a power imbalance exists, which could ultimately end up wasting your time and money if one person backs out of the process or acts in bad faith.

If privacy is a legitimate concern, the lawyers and certified mediators at Levine Family Law Group can assist you with finding the best option for resolving your divorce or other family law matter as discreetly as possible. We are hopeful that in the future, it will be more possible for divorcing parties to keep their dirty laundry private. After all, my divorce is none of your business!