Maintaining Confidentiality and Privacy

The question, how can you maintain confidentiality and financial privacy in your divorce may come to mind when you hear of high profile divorce cases where sensitive information was leaked to the public. Recently the Los Angeles Dodgers owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt have had their divorce widely publicized and it has become a national baseball scandal.

Unfortunately, in most states when you file documents in a divorce they become public records. Although most courts allow you to blacken out your social security number, other personal and financial information is often available to the public.

High profile people and celebrities often take the approach of settling outside of court to keep their personal finances private. By agreeing to settle outside of court, you can take two approaches. One approach is for both parties to hire attorneys who are committed to not forcing the issue to litigation. In fact, if negotiations fail the attorneys who sign Collaborative Divorce Agreements cannot represent you in litigation.  Another approach is to use an attorney mediator, who will provide a private, effective, and less costly solution to your divorce.

Although both parties must file the specific court forms dealing with child and spousal support (alimony in some states), it is not necessary for them to list all of their finances and sensitive marital property. With divorce mediation, parties can protect their privacy, their finances, and their specific personal identifiers by entering into a confidential marital settlement agreement. With the mediation approach, you sign a confidentiality agreement to keep confidences and finances secure. This is achieved through guarding information such as tax returns and financial statements. Although you must exchange sensitive data with your spouse and mediator, it is kept out of court records and the public eye.

Also, it is advisable to have agreements reviewed confidentially by independent counsel before you sign any final papers to make sure that your information is protected when getting individual advice. Once  a settlement is reached, the private agreements are kept out of the court files and public view. The public settlement agreement reveals only the absolute necessities. The private agreement is maintained by each party but enforceable by the court if problems arise.

Before you hire a litigation attorney, a collaborative lawyer or an attorney mediator, make sure you tell them about your privacy concerns. Also, inquire about how your financial and personal information will be kept out of court records. You and your spouse may need to dissolve your marriage, but you don’t need to reveal all your confidential information. In mediation, everything said in the course of the mediation sessions can never be revealed in court. You and your spouse only expose your challenges, secrets and sensitive data  to your mediator who will facilitate your communications and negotiations to arrive at a fair, private, and confidential solution.  

Mari Frank has been an attorney/mediator for 26 years.  She’s a professor of negotiations/conflict management at the University of California; Radio host of Prescriptions for Healing Conflict;  author of several books; and she’s been on over 300 radio interviews and quoted in various national newspapers. Visit www.conflicthealing.com and www.MariFrank.com. View her profile on DivorceMagazine.com here.

1 comment

  1. Bonnie Hendricks says:

    I was divorced in 2006. My ex and I chose to go through mediation to put a close to our 21 year marriage. Our mediator was very unprofessional! She dated my husband while we were mediating, she contiues to live with my ex-husband in the house i raised my children in! Needless to say I am not happy with her. We have had some very hard times, She is still working as a mediator for our county and I feel very threatened by her each time I need to be present in court. She was let go by the company that she worked for during my divorce, yet our local attorneys still use her services. I have recently been in contact with one of her present couples whom she is working with. They have stated how much they know of me and how terrible of a person this women has made me out to be. She refers to me and my divorce constantly with her clients and continues to degrade me. I have no idea what to do about this, but I truely feel that I have a right to privacy, and my personal divorce situation should never be discussed with all her other clients! If you have any suggestions I would greatly appreciate some direction.
    Thank you,
    Embarrassed and outraged in Ludington Michigan!

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