Protecting Your Privacy in Divorce
Documents you file in your divorce proceeding may be available to the public. While some financial documents are filed confidentially, many affidavits and exhibits are not confidential and can be viewed by the public. Divorce proceedings by their very nature often involve very personal and sometimes embarrassing information. The kind of information, for instance, you would not want employers, customers and family/friends to see. Experienced attorney Kathleen M. Newman of the DeWitt LLP law firm is sensitive to your privacy and can help you protect it.
What specific kinds of sensitive information often emerge in a divorce?
Divorce proceedings usually involve disclosing personal financial information, including assets, liabilities and income. When custody and parenting time is contested, affidavits are often filed with the court challenging a parent’s parenting skills. Worse, the file will sometimes have documents claiming domestic abuse, emotional abuse, adultery, mental illness, drug abuse or criminal activity. These types of allegations put into a court file, true or not, can adversely impact your future personal and business relationships.
What can be done to prevent sensitive information from being publicly available?
- Make sure that your attorney files appropriate information as a confidential filing, and redacts account numbers, social security numbers and other allowable information. Arrangements can be made to have attorneys keep other confidential information, like asset/liability balance sheets, in their offices to be used in future court proceedings only under certain circumstances.
- Mediation involves the parties agreeing to use a mediator to help them agree to the terms of the divorce, including the financial and custody/parenting time issues. Mediators are often Family Law attorneys trained to mediate. In proceeding within a mediation, all information and discussions are confidential and are not to be used in any court proceeding or discussed outside the mediation.
- Arbitration/Consensual Special Magistrate proceedings. These proceedings allow parties to hire individuals to mediate, and if mediation is not successful, to decide entire divorce cases, or specific issues in the divorce. In these types of proceedings, your attorney can keep many documents and information private, with only the divorce decree filed with the court and subject to public review.
Suppose the mediation fails and the divorce is resolved through court proceedings - what then? In this situation your attorney, when filing court papers, can designate the documents as “confidential.” Confidential documents include income tax returns, credit card statements, bank account statements as well as documents having, for instance. social security numbers and financial account numbers. Second, your lawyer can also file paperwork with the court asking that the file be sealed from public view. While the judge has the discretion to do this, requests to seal a file are not often granted. Courts may consider sealing records to protect victims of domestic violence, to protect children or protect proprietary business information.
Take-away: The divorce process allows for the filing of very private information in files that are open to the public. Attorney Kathleen M. Newman of the DeWitt LLP law firm is sensitive to these issues and can help protect your privacy. Call for an appointment today.
Minn. Gen. R. 11
“How to Protect Your Privacy During Divorce,” Divorce Magazine (October 1, 2018).