When someone is first thinking about filing for divorce, they don’t often think about the lack of privacy that comes with the traditional divorce process. In New York, courtrooms are open to everyone.  Reporters may be in the courtroom, neighbors may be in the courtroom, parents from your kid’s school may be in the courtroom… you get it. An open courtroom means anyone can walk in, sit down and listen to all the gory details of your life. 

And if you’re a prominent person in any way, your story may end up on Page Six. Take, for example, the divorce of ex-New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and financier Gabrielle Greene. Their attorneys may claim this is a “private” matter, yet they’ve chosen to litigate the matter in New York State Supreme Court and are scheduled to appear in court in 2 weeks. This divorce will be anything but private. 

Another recent prominent divorce involves the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines. Look at the information made public in this case. In addition to disclosing the fact that her monthly expenses total approximately $50,000 per month and include $23,000 per month for her mortgage alone, we now know the values of her: 

  1. Net Worth
  2. Vacation Homes
  3. Real and Personal Property
  4. Stocks and Bonds
  5. Cash and Checking Accounts

This is the type of information that can become public if you choose to have a judge make decisions in your divorce. Some other specific examples of private details that are at risk in a typical litigated divorce include:

Private Family Details:
Do you want the public to know about your sex life (or lack thereof)? Do you or your spouse suffer from an addiction? Do you have excessive debt? When your case is being heard in an open courtroom, your name and the details of your life are being revealed to everyone who is present (and those details are often repeated to others). People love gossip, and it can be very harmful to you and your family’s reputation if members of your community learn that your life is not what it appears to be. 

Business Matters:
If you own a business or have partners, the risks of a public divorce can be even greater. If you started a business or became a partner during the marriage, the business is likely to be appraised during the divorce. Do you want those details made public? What impact will disclosures about your personal business have on any business deals you’re working on? When you allow the details of your business to be disclosed in a public courtroom, there can be serious repercussions that extend beyond you and end up hurting your partners and employees as well. 

The Privacy of a Collaborative Divorce

In a Collaborative Divorce or Mediation, this sensitive information is kept completely private.  In Mediation, you, your spouse and the mediator are signing an Agreement to Mediate. In the Collaborative Divorce process, you are signing a Collaborative Participation Agreement. In both processes, everyone agrees that the matters will be handled confidentially. All negotiations are conducted through private conversations in the mediator’s or attorneys’ offices. Financial and other documents are exchanged between everyone involved, but they are not filed with the Court. What’s heard and seen in the negotiation room will not leave that room.  

At the end of the Mediation or the Collaborative Divorce process in New York, you will never even have to step foot into a courtroom. All the paperwork needed to get a divorce can be delivered directly to the clerk’s office and your file will be sealed. Nobody other than you or your attorney will ever be able to obtain copies of your papers. Your privacy is assured. 

If a private divorce is what you’re looking for, contact Vacca Family Law Group to discuss Mediation and Collaborative Divorce and find out which no-court process makes the most sense for you.