It’s never easy to go through a divorce, but when one or both parties are public figures or the divorce sparks public interest, it’s even more distressing. Even if you aren’t a celebrity or public figure, your very personal divorce may feel like an open book when it requires testimony from many witnesses and family and friends become involved.
When a divorce becomes not only a matter of public record but of public interest, it feels like a violation. It may also open the door to concerns over security, family privacy, and reputation. So how do you navigate the divorce process when complete privacy isn’t an option? A qualified Phoenix divorce attorney can help.
Come to a Mutually Agreed-Upon Divorce Agreement Out of Court
Anything that happens in a courtroom becomes a matter of public record. The best way to keep your divorce private is to come to an agreement with your spouse on all matters through your attorneys and the mediation process. If you have a divorce settlement agreement already resolved, the judge is likely to simply sign off on it as long as it isn’t egregiously unfair to one spouse. A divorce agreement includes:
- The equitable distribution of marital property
- A child custody agreement with a parenting schedule
- A child support agreement according to state guidelines
- An agreement for temporary spousal maintenance if it’s applicable in your situation
Often, professional mediators have fair solutions to resolve contentious issues that might not have occurred to you. If you want to keep personal details about your relationship out of court and the court of public opinion, being able to communicate and compromise outside of the courtroom is the key.
Avoid the Public Record
In today’s digital age, most people can access public records online with little trouble. Journalists and reporters easily access and report on divorce information entered into the public record, including all filed paperwork. Even nosy neighbors and interested friends and family members can look at public records. If privacy is important to you, there are ways to limit what information is available to the public. Some methods that may be successful include:
- Requesting that the court seal your records. The judge has total discretion in this decision but may agree if you stress the impact of publicity on your minor children
- Avoiding court battles by mediating your settlement out of court with the help of your lawyer
- Exchanging signed confidentiality agreements with your spouse to limit what they may reveal to the public
- Only speaking about the divorce to those under confidentiality agreements like your lawyer and therapist
What Information Is In the Public Record?
Divorce often brings out the worse in people and when child custody is a contentious issue, spouses are almost certain to paint the other parent in the worse possible light. In some cases, divorcing spouses make false allegations against each other, and may later emerge in the press if they’ve become a matter of public record. To assess the risk of taking your divorce to trial rather than mediating it out of court, it’s important to know what becomes public record. Often this includes:
- Any petitions, motions, and declarations filed
- Each spouse’s testimony about the other
- Witness testimony
- Expert testimony
- Evidence presented
If the judge in a divorce case refuses to seal the public record of your divorce you can request a redaction of certain information. For example, public figures may cite safety concerns and request that the court redact addresses, phone numbers, and any testimony that could reveal location information that presents a safety risk to you and/or your children. A family lawyer with experience navigating public divorces can help identify information that the courts should redact.