People with significant assets who are divorcing typically don’t want their personal business to be splashed across the headlines for anyone to see. For business people, having details of a divorce made public can not only be embarrassing, but can also create negative PR that could even affect a company’s bottom line. While divorce and other court proceedings are generally matters of public record, there are steps you can take to protect your privacy.
Request that your divorce be filed under seal. A judge will decide whether to grant this to you based on your circumstances. For your motion to be successful, you will have to show that having the proceedings made public would cause more harm than having them stay public would justify. Both parties to the divorce have to agree to the motion to file the divorce under seal.
Use alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Mediations and other out-of-court methods of resolving a divorce have a few benefits. One is that they allow parties to the divorce to assert more control over the outcome of the settlement. Another is that nobody can just wander in to a mediation session and sit down and take notes the way they can in an open court setting. Communications and evidence used to resolve a mediation remain confidential.
Use a private judge. California public courts are underfunded and overcrowded. Rather than wait for your public day in court, you can hire a private judge, whose duties are the same as a public judge, but whose private status allows more flexibility and privacy than that of a judge in the public system. When you use a public judge, the information about your divorce can still ultimately be made public (unless under seal), but you can set the time and place of your hearing away from the prying eyes of the public, which makes publicity less likely.
Limit social media use. While it can be tempting to turn to social media to blast your former spouse or put on display evidence of your now-happy life since your split, doing so can be risky. Even if you think twice and remove a post later, anyone can take screen shots and circulate them widely. And sometimes posts can cause greater tension with a spouse who then finds the motivation to fight harder for certain aspects of a divorce.
Divorce can be difficult enough without the added risks of negative PR. Those with significant assets or a high social profile, especially, should consider how best to protect their privacy while proceeding with a divorce.