When someone consults an attorney about getting a divorce, anything that person tells the attorney is private and protected by the attorney-client privilege. However, any written document that is filed with the court is open to the public and readily discoverable by anyone, stranger or friend. In a Collaborative Divorce, your privacy is protected during the entire process.
How Privacy is Protected in a Collaborative Divorce
In a traditional divorce, the parties file documents with the court without regard to privacy. They do not consult with each other about what information is included in those documents. One or both spouses may want some information to remain private. However, since the process is adversarial, private information is often shared with the court. This means it is also shared with the public.
In a collaborative divorce, documents are filed at the end of the case. Both parties approve the information that is included in the paperwork. Attorneys and their clients draft these together. Nothing becomes public record unless both parties have agreed to it. In some instances, settlement agreements can be signed off by both parties, but the document itself is not filed with the court.
Some examples of issues that the parties may want to keep private include:
- Events that may have led to the divorce. In Oregon, we can state irreconcilable differences without including any specific behavior by one party or the other. However, if there have been mental health or substance abuse issues, one of the parties may disclose damaging details of those occurrences into the public court record. This could have a number of consequences for the other party.
- Financial information, including assets owned and the value placed on each asset, how real property is distributed, who maintains which bank accounts, how debt is divided and other sensitive information.
- Parenting decisions such as where the children will live and what schools they will be attending.
The only people privy to all of the information are the attorneys and other professionals working with the parties in the collaborative process. This includes the certified divorce financial analysts, child psychologists, and others. They all have a duty not to share this information with anyone without the express permission of both parties.