Most divorces are traumatic enough without the potential damage to one's professional image that can result from having intimate details of the divorce disseminated to the public. Though many people think of such problems as mostly being in the realm of celebrities and other high-profile figures, having the nitty gritty details of your divorce hung out for everyone to see can happen to anyone.
Regardless of which party filed for the divorce, any subsequent filings are public legal records and, as such, they may be viewed by anyone. Divorce filings and settlements may also provide the public with undesirable insight into one's personal finances, which opens both parties up to potential exposure. Similarly, any hearings that take place in family court are open to the public.
How can you keep sensitive details of your private life that may be uncovered during divorce proceedings out of the public eye? For better or worse, the answer will require cooperation from your divorcing spouse.
Confidentiality is much easier with cooperation
If you and your spouse can agree that confidentiality is of paramount importance, most details of your divorce -- aside from the fact that a complaint has been filed -- can be kept out of the public eye. Matters of alimony, other spousal support and arrangements involving child custody can be addressed in a confidential settlement by sealing the record or by entering into a confidentiality Agreement with your spouse.
The Bucks County divorce lawyers at Williams Family Law can guide you through the process of filing for and finalizing divorce with minimal possible public exposure. Generally, the less you involve the court system in your divorce, the less information will be available for public review. If the divorcing parties can reach agreements through their attorneys on matters of spousal support, child support, equitable distribution and child custody without ever entering the courtroom, the details of the divorce often can be kept among the parties and their legal counsel.
If one party is concerned with confidentiality more than the other, the less concerned party may still agree to a confidentiality agreement during the settlement negotiation process without forfeiting any rights. Confidentiality agreements can be rigid, requiring both parties to agree never to disclose various details about the marriage, the divorce, or the settlement, or can be far more flexible, depending upon the needs and desires of the parties.
One of the most important steps anyone can take to keep their divorce out of the public eye might seem obvious: exercise personal discretion. This is often more difficult than it sounds, particularly in the age of social media.
In past generations, an upsetting interaction with a soon-to-be-former spouse might have prompted a phone call or a trip to a bar with a close friend. Today, scorned parties are more likely to send that friend a text message, and worse than the text, post something about their displeasure on social media. Facebook and other social media platforms make it easier to immediately and thoughtlessly share transient thoughts and raw emotions with a wide array of friends and contacts.
Giving in to that impulse not only reduces the privacy in your divorce process but also could negatively impact your position during any settlement negotiations with the spouse in question. Many divorces over the past decade have been affected by information that was carelessly shared on social media and then passed on to the opposing party in the divorce. In the event you simply cannot part with Facebook, you should take precautions to limit your exposure. Block your ex, and make sure to update the privacy settings so that only your "friends" can view your posts.
By the same token, your spouse's own outbursts on social media may be good ammunition but may also cause distress and an impulse to defend yourself. It is always best to avoid taking the bait while traveling the high road by not responding in kind. In most cases it is best to avoid Facebook and other social media during your divorce, particularly while emotions are running high.
If keeping your affairs private is a major concern in your divorce, the experienced Bucks County divorce attorneys at Williams Family Law can help. Call us at 215-340-2207.