Everybody loves drama—it’s why People magazine is so popular. In California, anyone (including journalists or even the IRS) can sit in on a hearing, and anyone can go to the courthouse and look at submitted files and documents. A court file could contain information about what your assets are, how much time you spend with your children, or even potentially more uncomfortable details. What that means is that there’s not a lot of privacy or confidentiality in a traditional divorce.
Why Keep a Divorce Confidential and Private?
You might want to keep your divorce discreet because:
- You work for a startup or new business, and are concerned that the process could have a chilling effect on funding and investors
- Testimony and depositions and court filings might include very personal details or situations that you wouldn’t the general public to know about
- Attention about your divorce on social media might make life far more challenging going forward
- You want to respect your former marriage and your former partner
- Without the added pressure of public drama, you can be empowered to make the right decision for yourself, your spouse, and your children.
How Privacy is Protected in California Court
Confidentiality can be beneficial to everyone involved, and the law contains provisions that protect confidentiality. There are also processes that help to preserve everyone’s privacy.
“Confidentiality” is a legal term which means that what’s said can’t ever be told to a judge. California’s mediation confidentiality law states that if you’re in a mediation process, anything discussed there cannot be repeated in court. Judges are very protective of this—it is the law, after all. They will sanction people by imposing a fine on those who try to bring information from mediation into court in court filings or testimony. Also, some counties in California even allow couples to file a confidential marital settlement agreement.
The Collaborative Divorce process in California has adopted the mediation confidentiality law. Though Collaborative Divorce not specifically mentioned in the Evidence Code as a confidential process, the court generally understands the Collaborative process to be confidential. When the spouses enter a Collaborative Divorce, they sign a confidentiality agreement, and judges in some counties have chosen to honor this confidentiality in the same manner as mediation cases.
Collaborative Divorce is beneficial to people of notoriety because they can avoid drama and gossip. For example, Roy Disney (nephew of Walt Disney) and his former wife used the Collaborative process, and the media was angry because they couldn’t get any details about the proceedings.
To summarize, in terms of privacy and confidentiality, Collaborative Divorce and Mediation are vastly superior to going to court. This is because these processes allow you to control what information does and doesn’t get out to the public or to your community.