Protecting Your Privacy in Divorce
Facing a divorce is a difficult reality for any couple. But, each time another person must be told about the end of the marriage, the emotional turmoil is magnified. Informing certain people, like children, immediate family, and close friends is necessary and unavoidable. However, there often comes a point, once that inner circle is aware of the situation, where someone going through a divorce feels that telling others of their circumstances is excessive and intrusive. Trying to limit the number of people who know about such a painful subject is natural, and these privacy concerns extend beyond those who learn of the circumstances via word-of-mouth. Documents filed with a court, and records created at hearings and trials, are all matters of public record. This means anyone has the ability to access copies of this information at any time, and with the ease of electronic records available online, the potential for strangers to learn personal details of a person’s life greatly increases. While it is possible to ask a judge to seal any records and documents created and/or used in a particular case, it is rarely granted. It may seem a party in divorce case has no option but to risk having personal information open to the public, but there are alternative processes to traditional divorce cases that get the same results but also protect the privacy of the parties.
Collaborative divorce is a relatively new process used in divorces, having been around for approximately 10 years, and is non-adversarial, private, faster, and less expensive than traditional litigation. Florida recently enacted a law on this process that sets out who can participate and how the procedure will progress. This process is intended to preserve the working relationship of the couple to the extent possible, which is important in issues such as parenting decisions and the operation of family businesses. Generally, the parties work with specially trained attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial experts to keep the lines of communication open and help the parties form a fair settlement. Note that this process is voluntary, and either party can terminate it at any time, but the attorneys in the process are not permitted to represent the parties in any case subsequently filed with the court. Importantly, absent issues related to crimes, all communications in this process are confidential and cannot be disclosed without the consent of the parties.
Mediation is similar to the collaborative divorce process in that it is voluntary and involves the participation of a neutral third party to help resolve disputes. Attorneys for each party are also present at all mediation sessions to provide advice to their clients about legal consequences of any decision made. Further, the parties have control over the outcome, incur less expense, and have the opportunity to resolve disputes via amicable cooperation. However, it differs as the mediator typically leads the parties to resolution in a more direct manner. This process is also private and confidential, so the parties do not have the worry about disclosure of personal and financial information. In cases involving children, courts will often refer the parties to mediation because parents who craft their own solutions to problems are more likely to comply with the terms and maintain a civil relationship.
Consult a Divorce Attorney
Divorce is hard, but there are ways to make the process a little easier emotionally and financially. Talk to a family law attorney about alternatives to traditional litigation, which could save you time, money, and a working relationship with your former spouse. These alternative resolution options are not appropriate for every case, but the possibility is worth exploring. The Fort Lauderdale law firm of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. has years of experience handling divorce cases, and can help you find the best approach for you and your family. Contact the office for a free consultation.