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Keeping Your Divorce Settlement Private

If you are a newsworthy figure whether as an athlete, a philanthropist, a business owner, a highly compensated executive or a well-known executive this may be a good reason to keep the facts of you divorce settlement confidential.

As an athlete you may not want the terms of your contract made public. As a business owner you may not want the value of your business to be made public. The top executive and the well know professional may not want their employees, clients, or patients to be privy to their personal or professional peccadillos or finances.

Many clients want their divorce file “sealed.” Many may remember the situation raised by then U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan. Mr. Ryan had been married to actress Jeri Ryan. While, both parties opposed the documents being made public a California judge ruled in 2004 that the public’s right to disclosure outweighed the private interest of the Ryans and their child saying “…protection from embarrassment cannot be a basis for keeping from the public what is put in public courts.”

This reasoning has now been adopted by the federal courts. On December 26, 2013, Judge Richard Posner of the 7th circuit Court of Appeals issued and opinion. Judge Posner rejected two requests to seal settlements. He points out that while settlement terms are ordinarily kept confidential, that happens because the parties do not tell the judge and the judge does not need to know to make the rulings. But once disclosed in court confidentiality is lost.

This past year the Chicago Tribune wrote a feature article on an array of powerful and connected people who have had their divorce decrees sealed. The Tribune still managed to find out the identities of the parties.

Are there ways to protect your privacy? Yes, but your case must be managed correctly from the beginning. The key is to avoid court and court filings with any potentially private information. Call us when you have an upcoming divorce, prior to any filing, we will help you maintain your privacy.