If you are contemplating a divorce and keeping your financial [and other] affairs private matters to you, you need to know how different divorce processes work. You can choose a divorce process where your private information becomes part of the public record for anyone to review, where every court hearing is open to the public to attend, or you can choose a divorce process that will keep your private information private.
Traditional Litigation Provides No Privacy
Court records, with few exceptions, are public. The public has a constitutional right to have access to these public records and to attend court hearings. This means that in a traditional litigated divorce, every document you file in court or submit into evidence is part of the public record. Your assets, debts, taxes, and for business owners, the business financial records and valuations may be made part of the public record. Your child custody disputes, allegations, child support orders and spousal support orders are all open for public review. There is no privacy in divorce that can protect you during the litigation process.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, most court proceedings are held online through Zoom or some other type of platform using video. Anyone can attend the court proceedings which are still required to be open to the public. Some of the hearings stream on YouTube making it even easier for anyone to log in and view what is happening in your divorce.
In a high-asset divorce, or one of public interest, information can become plastered all over the media. One very ugly example occurred several years ago when the then owners of the LA Dodgers baseball team, Frank and Jamie McCourt, engaged in a litigated divorce battle. The public easily kept track of the millions of dollars that were at issue, and it became public how they had mismanaged the financials of baseball team and used some team resources for their private use. In the wake of the revelations, the change in public perceptions of the McCourt’s ownership of the franchise was irreparably damaged and Major League Baseball itself exercised a clause in the franchising agreement that forced them to sell the team.
This is why public figures rarely litigate their divorces in court.
Ok you and I may not be the McCourt’s. There are other implications for the less ‘public’ litigant. Anyone can go to the courthouse and access the divorce records. There have been too many cases of children, whose parents divorced when they were younger, going back into the court records and reading what their parents said about each other in the heat of the fight. They can review all the personal accusations and financial information.
There is a better way. Stay out of court. Mediation or a collaborative divorce provides privacy and shields your documents from public view.
Mediation or A Collaborative Divorce Protects Your Privacy
In California, the law provides that a couple can sit down privately and work out their property settlement and co-parenting arrangements in private with varying levels of privacy, depending on process choice. The California Evidence Code specifically provides Mediation with the highest level of privacy in divorce in the entire United States. Likewise, when you choose a collaborative divorce, you sign a stipulation and the court orders the application of the same level of privacy, the same statutes, giving you with the highest level of privacy in divorce. This means that the only information that gets filed with the court are the required pleadings and the final agreement which embodies your mutual agreements regarding future financial arrangements and co-parenting.
At Family Peacemaker, we are experts in private divorce processes and our attorneys are dedicated to assisting our clients in divorcing in the most private and amicable way possible, keeping your private information private. Contact us for a free one-hour consultation to see how we can help.