We have all seen the divorce cases that turn into a media spectacle, especially when high-profile couples are involved. Their personal lives become tabloid gossip, and private details about marital indiscretions, abuse allegations or financial holdings are exposed to the world.
How does this happen? It's a lot simpler than you may think.
Generally speaking, court proceedings are open to the public and divorce filings become public record. That means anyone can look up most pleadings that were filed in a divorce case. One way to avoid this is if the court agrees to keep the divorce filings under seal and confidential.
How to seal divorce filings in Texas
The good news for Texas residents who are going through divorce and want to keep the details of their private lives off of public record is that the state is much more lenient than many others when it comes to sealing divorce filings.
In the state of Texas, a party involved in a divorce has to ask the court to seal the records and argue that doing so will not have a negative effect on public health or safety, and that the filings do not involve information that should be made available to the public.
Alternatives to sealing an entire record
Even in cases where it is not possible to seal an entire divorce record, there are alternative options that can keep private divorce details confidential. These include:
- Sealing only certain documents containing sensitive data, such as those involving finances, children, health or abuse allegations.
- Asking the court for a confidentiality (or protective) order, which lists all of the filings that should be kept off of public record.
- Agreeing on a confidentiality clause in the divorce decree, which requires both parties to keep the details of the settlement private.
Using out-of-court settlement to retain privacy
Mediation involves negotiations that are facilitated by a neutral third party. One of the main benefits of mediation is that the process takes place outside of the public court system, which means that the negotiations and the details of the settlement are kept private and confidential.
Other benefits of mediation include: the parties retain control over the outcome of their divorce, the process focuses on collaboration instead of conflict, children are better off when their parents can work together, it is less expensive and it can be less time-consuming.