People don’t always think first about their privacy when considering divorce. But what most folks don’t realize is that the litigated divorce process is NOT private and that their personal information will be filed in the public record and possibly shared in a public courtroom. Most people don’t want their personal business aired out in a public forum. They don’t want the circumstances that led to the breakdown of their marriage aired out in a public forum. They don’t want their finances aired out in a public forum. They don’t want their children’s information aired out in a public forum.
Once we start talking about how documents are filed, how the divorce process works, what a hearing looks like, often it occurs to clients that the typical divorce process IS public and anybody who wants to can come to court and watch. Recently, as Texas courts respond to Covid-19, the courts, including Travis County, are increasingly moving hearings online (as opposed to in-person) and sharing the courtrooms live on YouTube to comply with the open courts provision in the Texas Constitution. The client can understandably get skittish about any solution that will air out their dirty laundry.
It’s not uncommon for people residing in smaller towns to travel into the closest larger city to avoid hiring a local attorney they that they may know personally. They want somebody that they feel will be more private and confidential. If they are not friends or don’t have mutual friends with the attorney, privacy is often easier.
Most lawyers are meticulous about protecting their clients’ information. All clients, especially those with high net worth estates or clients with valuable assets, demand confidentiality and want their financial information protected. However, in a contested divorce, that information can end up being filed in the public record, particularly if the parties are arguing about sharing certain financial information. They may have to set a public hearing on discovery to require that certain documents be turned over. If your case goes to trial, then certainly your financial records and other personal information are admitted into evidence in the public court hearing and you will likely be required to testify publicly about them.
In Austin, we have thriving tech, healthcare, entertainment, and venture capitalist communities. Typically, they do not want their financial information, or their drama, aired out in public — especially owners of new or growing startups, as this can adversely affect their ability to obtain venture capital funding or groom their business for sale. Because of this, these groups of people are very attracted to the privacy that Collaborative Divorce offers.
The Collaborative Divorce process has multiple ways of protecting privacy of clients. Number one, ther are no contested hearings in a public courtroom. We only go to court to present the final documents for the judge to sign and currently in Austin, during the current Covid-19 social distancing, this process is done completely via digital submission without the need for a court appearance. In Collaborative Divorce, there are minimal legal filings, usually just a petition and a few other items. Financial information is also exchanged in the private, closed-door Collaborative meetings or video conferences, not in public at the courthouse where members of the community can be present or in hearings broadcast over YouTube.
If privacy is a concern for you in your divorce, then talk to your attorney about Collaborative Divorce in your very first consultation.