Why is it so important to protect the privacy of your divorce?
The latest person with an answer to this question may be singer Cardi B.
You probably already saw the headlines. Yesterday, explosive — and very public — divorce papers were filed by Cardi B’s legal team in the Georgia courts. The papers stated that Cardi B is seeking an end to her marriage from rapper Offset and wants primary custody of the couple’s minor child and for Offset to contribute “support and maintenance.” The public divorce filing noted that Offset is contesting these demands.
Today, however, TMZ reports Cardi B was unaware that her legal team was positioning her case in such a public and combative way: “We’re told she wants Offset to have joint custody of Kulture and is determined to have an amicable, co-parenting situation. Our sources say Cardi is in touch with her lawyer and the document will be amended to reflect her wishes.”
Cardi B and Offset may be accustomed to being in the public eye. However, for matters as personal as divorce and custody, privacy is paramount for lowering tension. After all, can you imagine being part of a divorce and custody battle fought in a courtroom and the court of public opinion? Especially when a child is involved?
For the rest of us who don’t need to worry about our divorce being splashed across Page Six, divorce privacy is still imperative. Anyone can potentially access public court documents, including employers, relatives, nosy neighbors, and someday, adult children of divorce. And it’s not just the court papers. In today’s world, everyone needs to be on guard about details shared on social media.
But here’s some good news. Preserving divorce privacy is a simple process that doesn’t add cost to the divorce. Just the opposite, a private divorce has a much greater chance for also being a “quiet divorce” that gives spouses the breathing room and discretion to arrive at healthy, non-hostile decisions and without drawn out court battles.
So, what steps are needed to protect your divorce privacy? Here are six ways to keep your divorce details under wraps.
And a special shoutout to Cardi B — you can use these tips too!
Choose your grounds for divorce wisely. When you file for divorce, there are numerous “grounds” or reasons for the divorce to choose from, including adultery and desertion. Grounds for divorce are public record, and some require further detail in the filing to establish why it was chosen. Do you really want the details of an affair or breakdown of sexual relations in the marriage (which is the meaning of marital desertion in New Jersey) to be forever attached to your name?
If you are concerned that you will somehow miss out in your settlement if you don’t claim one of these “fault grounds,” remember that modern divorce is governed by very clear property and custody laws. If one spouse misbehaved by cheating, it generally has very little bearing on the spouse’s share of a marital asset when dividing the family home or a retirement account, for example. Likewise when deciding custody of children, a spouse’s cheating does not automatically make them any less of a parent.
On the flip side, the ground for divorce that can protect your privacy is “irreconcilable differences.” This “no fault” ground simply means that you and your spouse have been experiencing problems in your marriage for at least six months, and that these problems cannot be worked out. No other details need be provided and you don’t need to describe the problems or who caused them, thus protecting the privacy of all involved parties. If anyone does access your divorce papers, all they will find is this very vague reason.
File for divorce anonymously. In some high profile or high conflict divorces, it’s possible to file for divorce under “anonymous caption” and all public records related to your divorce will be labeled anonymous v. anonymous.
Filing for divorce anonymously is often done for enhanced privacy in divorce proceedings to protect the identity of children in the event child custody is a hotly contested issue or there is some other concern that could potentially hurt the child by becoming public record. Parties must demonstrate to the court a “compelling interest” why court records should have real names omitted. Besides public figures and child custody issues, victims of domestic violence are likewise granted the ability to keep their real name private.
Keep your divorce out of court. Once the decision is made to divorce, spouses can start working quietly and often quickly, with the help of their attorneys, to reach the terms of their settlement without ever setting foot in a court house, and without officially filing for divorce. It is possible to have a martial settlement reached and agreed upon by both parties, and then go through the formalities of filing divorce paperwork and submitting the final settlement to the courts. (Your attorney can take care of this.) Public records do not include any of the privately agreed upon settlement terms. Ask your attorney about mediation or collaborative divorce to get this process started.
Put temporary agreements in place. Attorneys and spouses can work to put temporary agreements in place to protect each spouse’s interests and agree to certain ground rules during the time before the divorce. This can include everything from temporary custody to temporary alimony. Again, by taking care of these matters out of court, there is no public record.
Don’t engage online. Regardless of what your spouse may be saying about you on Facebook, it is important that you are not baited into participating in a fight. Remember, whatever is said by you online remains online forever. And, your postings could be viewed by hundreds of people. Don’t give away your own privacy! Instead, talk to your divorce attorney about what is being said by your spouse and seek legal intervention, if necessary.
Consider a “social media post-nuptial agreement”: More and more couples today are outlining not only how to split the house and the bank accounts, but how they are expected to behave in the event of a divorce. Agreements can outline terms about what not to post on Facebook, or otherwise share via social media site, including any images or content that could be construed as negative, insulting, embarrassing, or unflattering.
Some couples call for a complete blackout on posting photos of children or about the family business or other money and asset-related issues. In the event of a divorce, social media prenups might call for each spouse to refrain from posting anything — good or bad — on social media.
Have questions about your divorce and filing? Want to learn more ways to protect your privacy? We can help. Schedule a virtual consultation and talk to an attorney at no charge. (Phone or video virtual consults available — your choice.) Call us today at 888-888-0919, or please click the button below.