How to divorce without publicizing your private life
by Jo Posey, JD
Joanna “Jo” Posey, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Most people don’t realize that everything they or their spouse files during their divorce case becomes a matter of public record.
Every scandalous accusation of past wrongdoing. Every detail about their finances and the finances of their business. Every embarrassing story about their weakest parenting moments. All of those details, if alleged by a party in a court pleading, become part of the court’s file and available to the public at large.
Years ago, when a person had to drive down to the courthouse and pay a fee to make paper copies of court files, this wasn’t such a big deal. But since all Oregon courts switched to electronic filing, obtaining court records is as easy as signing up for a login and doing a quick name search. What this means is that the most intimate details of your private life and the conflicts leading to your divorce are readily available to anyone who cares enough look for them online—including friends, family members, neighbors, employers/employee and children.
The solution to prevent the publicizing of details of a divorcing couple’s private lives is to choose a collaborative divorce process rather than litigating in the public spotlight. At the outset of collaborative divorce cases, parties sign a contract committing to resolving all of their conflicts in a series of meetings outside of the courtroom and before any salacious allegations can be made part of the public record.
Each party is represented by an attorney with specialized training in alternative dispute resolution and interest-based negotiation who advocates on their client’s behalf throughout the process. Only after a complete agreement is reached and tempers have cooled is anything filed with the court. Oregon law requires some minimal income information be recited in judgments involving child support, but the rest of the agreement can be set forth in a confidential marital settlement agreement.
Collaborative divorce has other benefits over litigation:
Instead of a judge, the parties control the process, including the timeline and the final decisions made.
Parties agree to openly share information with one another without the need for depositions or formal legal requests to produce documents and information.
The private details of your divorce remain between you, your ex-spouse and your attorneys.
Costs are manageable and typically less than in a litigated case.
Parties jointly retain experts as needed (appraisers, actuaries, child specialists) who provide information and guidance to help spouses develop mutually beneficial solutions
Lawyers work together to help their clients reach a mutually agreeable settlement rather than using resources that could be put toward achieving settlement toward trial preparation and legal positioning, which drives up costs.
The process is voluntary, but the parties are protected from having the content of their collaborative meetings used against them in court proceedings.
Collaborative divorce helps divorcing spouses get the education and legal advice they need to make informed decisions about their own future, rather than leaving those decisions up to a judge who may only be able to spend a few hours learning about the issues before making a ruling that will affect the family for years to come.
The collaborative process works in most types of divorce cases, including legally complicated cases, high asset cases and highly contested cases. It is an effective alternative to litigation that saves the participants from the stress of trial and the embarrassment of having sensitive information made public.