Are you gearing up for a highly confidential or high-profile divorce, but don’t want your private information made available for public consumption? You’re not alone. Most people prefer to keep highly personal matters private during divorce, especially when certain revelations could damage their reputation, put a business and finances at risk, or cause unnecessary duress to their children.
Look for an attorney who places a priority on privacy
If privacy is paramount for you, the first thing to do is hire a divorce attorney who is known to be discreet and avoid divorce attorneys who love talking about their high-profile clients on camera. Reputable divorce attorneys know how to keep their clients out of the spotlight.
A good place to start is to ask friends and colleagues who have gone through divorce what their experience was like with their attorney, and in particular, what the lawyer did to keep the divorce under wraps. Other attorneys you trust or work with may also be a good resource for referrals.
Next, take time to meet with at least two or three attorneys to learn how they handle highly confidential, high-profile and celebrity divorces and how they would approach your case. Those initial meetings can help you determine which attorney may be the best fit for you.
Get more tips for finding a divorce lawyer here: Wealthy and Getting Divorced? 6 Essential Tips for Hiring a Divorce Attorney
Eight ways to maintain privacy before, during and after a Texas divorce
The ability to keep certain details of your divorce private depends on where you live, and the public’s right to know may also play a role. For people who live in Texas, keeping personal information private may be easier than it is in many other states.
While it is presumed that all court records are open to the public in Texas, there is an exception when it comes to the family courts. Documents filed in actions related to the Texas Family Code are excluded from the definition of court records. An exception to this exception is if a public official is involved. However, it’s still up to the judge to determine whether information contained in the public official’s divorce documents should be made available to the public.
So what can you and your attorney do to keep your personal information private?
1). Get a confidentiality order put in place during divorce negotiations to prevent either party from revealing private details to the public. (Texas judges aren’t required to approve confidentiality orders, but they often do, especially when children are involved.)
2). Have documents with private information marked as SENSITIVE, which prevents those records from being published online. This tactic is used to protect private information (social security numbers, bank account numbers, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, etc.) and commonly accepted because the release of such information could lead to identity theft, invasion of privacy or put children at risk. Your attorney will need to include a BOLD notation at the top of the file that notes THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS SENSITIVE DATA.
3). File a motion for a protective order (also referred to as a confidentiality order) that lists all documents, transcripts and other information you would like to keep confidential. You can either agree to a protective order with the other party or request one from the court on your own.
4). Conceal personal information in the decree. In Texas, it isn’t unusual for attorneys to omit personal information like fault grounds for the divorce, complete financial account numbers, birth dates and other identifying details.
5). Include a “book deal” clause (a penalty clause) in the divorce decree that requires the other party to pay you any proceeds received from tell-all books they publish. This will likely discourage him or her from publishing private information about your divorce and relationship since he or she won’t be able to profit from a book.
6). File a motion to seal ALL records of the divorce proceedings and decree. While it’s up to the court to decide whether or not to seal your records, it’s very common in Texas for one or both parties to request all divorce records be sealed, and the courts do allow it in most cases.
7). Include a confidentiality clause in the divorce decree. This discourages both parties from revealing details of the divorce and may allow for legal recourse should the confidentiality clause be violated. You may want to consider offering more spousal support or a larger lump sum settlement to encourage the other party to agree to the clause.
8). Consider opting for a collaborative divorce, which typically requires a higher degree of confidentiality than a litigated divorce. Unlike litigated divorces that are often open to the public, collaborative divorces play out in private with only the divorcing parties and their legal teams in attendance.
Interested in going the collaborative route? Check out this past post: 5 Compelling Reasons to Consider Collaborative Divorce in Texas
Christine Powers Leatherberry is a compassionate family lawyer who is equally comfortable in the courtroom as she is counseling her clients one-on-one. To learn more about divorce and child custody in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call (214) 617-1583 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and considerate member of the Connatser Family Law team.