Divorce Confidentiality: Don’t Put it in Writing if you Don't Want it to be "Exhibit A"


Undergoing divorce is already emotionally draining, and the potential harm to one’s reputation adds another layer of stress. While the public airing of intimate divorce details may seem reserved for celebrities, the reality is personal matters can often become public knowledge for anyone. Despite who initiates the divorce, court filings are public records, accessible to anyone. This exposure may reveal personal financial details, posing a risk to both parties. Additionally, hearings in family court, regardless of their nature, are open to the public, contributing to the potential dissemination of private information. Since COVID, family law hearings have been placed on public forums like YouTube to meet Open Court requirements thus making litigants’ personal lives very public.   

Ensuring that confidential aspects of your personal life, revealed in divorce proceedings, remain private demands collaboration from your soon-to-be ex-spouse, and your own understanding that what you put in writing (whether this be text, email or social media) can be used in court. The extent to which sensitive details can be shielded from public scrutiny hinges on the willingness of both parties to cooperate throughout the process and the Court accepting the agreement. At Coldwell Bowes, we understand the importance of maintaining confidentiality during such a sensitive time. In this blog, we'll explore insights for both lawyers and those going through a divorce on how to keep the process as private as possible, addressing concerns related to sensitive information and providing tips for safeguarding personal matters. 

Confidentiality through Cooperation 

Getting Your Priorities Straight 

When you and your spouse both prioritize confidentiality, it’s possible to keep most divorce details private, excluding the fact that a complaint has been filed. Matters like alimony, spousal maintenance, and child custody arrangements can be confidentially addressed through appropriate channels of communication such as a sealed settlement or a confidentiality agreement with your spouse. 

Confidentiality Agreements

Confidentiality agreements outline the terms under which sensitive information is shared and emphasize the importance of keeping such information confidential. This step can serve as a preventive measure against leaks or unauthorized disclosures. Even if one party is less concerned about confidentiality, they may agree to a confidentiality agreement during settlement negotiations without compromising their rights. These agreements can be either rigid, prohibiting disclosure of various marriage, divorce, or settlement details, or flexible, tailored to the parties' needs and preferences. 

Court Involvement

Generally, the less involvement the court system has, the lower the public review of information. If agreements on spousal support, child support, equitable distribution, and child custody can be reached through legal counsel without entering the courtroom, the divorce details can often remain confidential between the parties and their lawyers. Our divorce attorneys at Coldwell Bowes are adept at facilitating the divorce process with minimal public exposure. 

Exercise Personal Discretion

Secure Communication Channels

In today's digital age, communication security is paramount. Encourage the use of secure communication channels, such as encrypted emails and messaging apps, to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access. 

Limit Social Media Activity

Limiting your social media activity during a divorce may be an obvious step in exercising personal discretion, but this can be difficult in the age of social media. Today people are more inclined to express frustrations via text message, or worse yet, share their discontent on social media platforms. The immediacy and impulsiveness of such online sharing can compromise the privacy of your divorce proceedings and potentially harm your negotiating position with your spouse. It is important to remember that anything you put into writing, letters, emails, social media, messenger apps, or through text or other chat programs can be used in Court as “Exhibit A.”

Over the past decade, numerous divorces have been impacted by hasty social media disclosures and text messages sent in the heat of an argument. If abstaining from social media platforms is not an option for you, it is crucial to take precautions to mitigate exposure. If you do not want specific information to appear in Court do not post it or text it. 

Additional Measures to Protect your Privacy

Educate Clients on Privacy Measures

Your legal team should empower you with knowledge on privacy measures that you can take independently. This includes securing personal devices with passwords, being cautious about sharing information with friends and family, and regularly monitoring financial statements for any irregularities.

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