You have probably seen it in the news. Johnny Depp and his wife are divorcing. You may have even searched for details of the settlement. After all, he’s bound to be worth millions (or more!?)!! How are they going to split that vast estate? Well, you may have learned by now that the Depps have asked a judge to seal the details of their divorce from the public. Read Their Story Here.
Divorce is a very personal matter. Regardless of the reasons, and whether the parties are in agreement that it is time to go their separate ways, it’s difficult and stressful. You may be angry. You may be hurt. But the damage that will be done by airing the dirty laundry from your divorce can have long lasting, permanent repercussions on you, your family and your children. Just don’t do it. So, with that being said, how can you keep the details of your divorce from being public?
Divorce records are public records so once you file your divorce, it automatically becomes a matter of public record and anyone can go online or down to the courthouse and see that filing. What can remain private are the details of your divorce but there are only a few ways to go about this.
Your attorney (you must be represented by different parties in Massachusetts and New Hampshire) and your spouse’s attorney can advise you on the process and locating the best mediator. Mediation is a way of discussing and resolving any open issues between the two parties and finding a solution that is amenable to both. A mediator will not tell you what you should do but will listen to both you and your spouse and guide you to a solution that works for you both.
A mediator brings you from points “A” and “C” (at opposite ends) to point “B.” (middle ground). Your attorneys will be involved so that you are both protected. I always advise having an attorney present at mediation and not simply attending alone. The reason for that is to get advice on the implications, process, etc. while also finding compromise. Mediation will only work if both parties in a divorce are willing to work together to come to an agreement. Mediation is not the solution for a contested divorce.
The great thing about mediation is that only the resulting agreement that results from your mediation is held in the divorce file. All of the details and circumstances of the divorce are left in the room and held in confidence. Be sure to discuss this avenue with your attorney to determine if this is something that will work in your situation.
There are some details that can remain private in certain circumstances.
- Situations that may cause harm to others, for example can be sealed by the court.
- Sexual or physical abuse to either party or to minors can be sealed and held from the public.
- Addresses of the parties when there is a safety issue can be held in confidence.
- Reports from a guardian, counselor, etc. will be held in confidence.
An experienced family attorney can advise on these issues and provide an idea of what to expect. While no lawyer has a crystal ball and cannot guarantee a certain result from the court, an attorney who is familiar with not only the law but the jurisdiction will have a greater sense of the likelihood of success. If you are considering a divorce, breakup, separation and want to consider having the details sealed from the public eye, contact me. We can do up to a one hour phone consultation at no cost to you, to be sure you are comfortable moving forward.