Divorces are deeply personal matters for anyone. But when you’re a celebrity, or in a high-profile marriage, your name and reputation are on the line along with everything else.
Private Pain, Public Knowledge
How is it that the average divorce provides little or no privacy, yet the terms of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s divorce were mostly kept private? How is it that the average divorce lasts months or years, and yet celebrities such as Bill and Melinda Gates were able to finalize their divorce in weeks?
In this blog post we’ll discuss how to keep your name out of the tabloids or papers, how to protect your privacy, and how to seek the confidentiality of your divorce records.
Divorce and Confidentiality of Records
Almost every divorce is going to include the dissemination of private materials of a personal and financial nature. Unfortunately, California divorce records are generally available to the public. With certain exceptions, such as paternity test results, almost anyone can request divorce records and few confidentiality exceptions apply. For example, if you are divorced in Orange County, those records are generally available through the court.
This may not be a big deal for most litigants, but if you’re a celebrity or public figure, then it’s likely imperative that you protect your privacy.
Some of the steps you can take to protect the confidentiality of divorce records include:
- Requesting that the Court seal your records
- Agreeing to limit what is provided in discovery
- Settling your case prior to filing for divorce
- Utilizing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to limit divorce litigation
- Utilizing collaborative divorce, arbitration, mediation, or other “alternative dispute resolution” options to remove or keep your case out of the court system
- Quashing subpoenas
- Aggressively contesting sensitive and inappropriate discovery requests
- Attaching exhibits to motions under protective seal
- Seeking closed hearings for trials or other court appearances
- Engaging in mutual confidentiality agreements with your ex
- Seeking that certain information be redacted from your public records
The above actions will all help ameliorate concerns about court confidentiality, but what if your ex is going to the tabloids, or threatening to?
How to Stop Your Ex from Going to the Press in a California Divorce
A divorce involves two parties, so it’s imperative that we not only limit what information or documentation our side discloses, but that we also move to restrict what documentation your ex may disseminate.
Mutual confidentiality agreements may come into play here, but what if your ex does not agree? What if they intend to air all the dirty laundry in the press, either out of spite or in hopes of gaining an upper hand in the divorce litigation? What can you do then?
One of the first things to consider is filing a protective action in your divorce court. You can seek to seal your ex’s records, or to restrict your ex from turning over certain materials to the court or even third parties. There may be a legitimate reason for your ex to provide records to the court or to their expert witnesses, but court orders can help limit the scope or dissemination of such records. One thing family courts look down upon are games or parties acting in bad faith. If it can be proven that your ex is playing the media game, then you can turn the tables against them and gain the upper hand in court.
If your ex is leaking information or materials to the tabloids or press, then it might be time to file an injunction, or perhaps even threaten or file suit for defamation or slander. You may also be able to place pressure on the tabloid or media company to not run the story. Depending upon the type of information being shared, such leaks may also be considered a form of harassment by your ex requiring a restraining order or other protective order.
If the information has already been published, then you may consider seeking a retraction. But in today’s connected world, once the “toothpaste is out of the tube,” it’s hard to scrub that information from the web. Sometimes, the more you try to erase things, the more public it becomes. But even then, you may consider filing appropriate court actions to ensure future leaks do not occur.
When your reputation and privacy are on the line, you need to move quickly and decisively to combat any such malfeasance by your ex or their attorneys.
Fighting for Your Divorce Privacy
In a celebrity divorce matter, it’s important to choose the proper terrain for the litigation. This includes not only the choice of venue or courtroom but considering the greater world beyond. This may mean keeping your case out of court altogether, or until such time as it is ready to be finalized. This may also mean threatening litigation for defamation or slander if your ex is leaking information or documentation to the press.
Our firm will vigorously defend your privacy rights, will move to quash inappropriate subpoenas, and will not provide materials that are privileged or otherwise not “discoverable” by the law. We are experienced in high net worth, celebrity, and public-figure divorce, and we will do what we can to protect your privacy interests.
If you’re confronting a celebrity divorce case in Orange County or surrounding locales, call (949) 565-4158 or complete an online contact form to schedule a consultation with Burch Shephard Family Law Group. We are a compassionate and specialized law firm with more than one hundred years of combined family law experience.
We look forward to learning more about your important divorce matter.