How to Maintain Your Privacy During a Divorce

By Laura Bare

Not everyone has the paparazzi follow them to court for a divorce proceeding appearance like Robert DeNiro did recently. He managed to be filmed yelling at his driver who didn’t meet him behind the courthouse as he requested. The stress of the situation caused him to behave in a way in which I am sure he is not proud. Even with his face shielded by a newspaper, you could feel the stress and panic he was experiencing at the time.

If he and his wife had opted for a Collaborative divorce, this scene would never have taken place. When you decide on Collaboration, the agreement is worked out with a team of two attorneys, a coach, a financial neutral and other professionals the team decides are critical for a successful divorce proceeding. The couple is in control of the process; making decisions that work the best for them and their family, rather than having a judge decide what will happen. The team works together to avoid unnecessary conflict and move the process forward at a pace that suits the couple. There are no costly status updates with the court, and no appearances until the end when the final agreement is signed off by the judge.

This greatly enhances the privacy of the proceeding. You don’t have to be famous to want these issues to be dealt with privately. Many people don’t realize how much detail is available publicly about your most private information in a normal litigated divorce.

Because a divorce proceeding is a court record, the default is that the information in the court filing is public. It is very inexpensive to get copies of court filings, and they are available online. You or your spouse could request the filing be sealed, but the court has no obligation to seal the documents. Your most private financial information, health information, and business interest information could be out there for anyone to look up.

With a Collaborative divorce, only the final document is available publicly. Your financial information can be shielded in a separate summary that is only referenced in the document.

There are other benefits to a collaborative divorce. Collaborative team members are all trained in mediation and work diligently to help the couple explore different settlement options. The couple is then able to make the best decision for them, both in the short term and long term. They help the couple build communication skills that serve them when their situations change and adjustments need to be made to the agreement. The couple is better able to negotiate these adjustments without needing expensive professional help in the future. This, again, helps you avoid the courtroom and the judge.

The attorneys you each hire represent you in the same way you would expect. The difference is that they agree to work together with you to find a solution that works for you. They are not going to pick fights with the other side and run up expensive legal bills by filing unnecessary motions. They will work efficiently together with you to find a solution without all of the negative noise and activity.

When you are not fighting in court you are able to make better decisions that benefit the children and you don’t subject them to adversarial parents. A team of parenting coordinators are available to make sure the children’s needs are truly taken care of. They can help you both figure out the best plan for everyone involved.

A financial neutral can work with you on setting up a post-divorce budget. You will be given the information you need to make good financial decisions. What are the tax ramifications of taking the house and giving your spouse the retirement accounts? How do I know if I can afford to keep the house? How do we split a pension? What about the stock options? Student loans? All of these decisions are tough, but are even tougher if you don’t understand the potential financial pitfalls. And, because the financial expert is neutral, you can trust that the information they give you is not biased toward either of you.

Going through a divorce is a very difficult and emotional event. Wouldn’t it be easier if you had a mental health professional in the room who was able to help everyone in the room recognize the emotions and deal with them in a productive way? A coach will do that, as well as helping you both set goals for the process and keep you on track to meet those goals. A coach in a collaborative divorce is a valuable resource to help everyone involved and make sure everyone’s emotional needs are being taken care of. You won’t find that in a courtroom.

Collaborative divorce in Illinois has just recently been recognized as law. The Collaborative Process Act, which went into effect July 2018, is recognition of the process that has been practiced here for decades, so it is not new. It is a process that is not as familiar as litigation to people in Illinois, but there are places where it is the common way to get divorced. Many people believe the court is the wrong place to work out a divorce. It is the place you have to go when you get into trouble. In court trials we are used to seeing on television there are winners and losers. In a divorce, there doesn’t need to be a winner and a loser. It is possible to have everyone win.

Divorce is a very stressful event to go through. A Collaborative divorce can greatly reduce the stress by providing you with a team ready and able to take care of your legal needs, provide parenting and emotional support, and financial information to help guide you both through the process. If you want to avoid the stress of the courtroom as well as the public nature of litigation, it should be a process you consider.

Laura Bare is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ and helps couples going through a divorce figure out what an equitable split of assets and liabilities looks like for their situation. She takes into consideration the ramifications of the financial decisions being made both now, five years out and ten years out (or further) to make sure her clients are well prepared for the future. She has experience in mortgage lending and real estate sales and is uniquely positioned to provide advice on the real estate issues that are frequently a part of the divorce process. She takes a collaborative approach in working with other professionals including mediators, family law attorneys and divorce coaches. 773-412-3129 /  laura@embarkcollaborations.com /  www.embarkcollaborations.com

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