People often put off filing for divorce for a variety of personal reasons. They may worry about the impact of the process on their children or how they will afford to live alone. For others, concerns about their privacy dominate the decision-making process.
They know that the only way to achieve a fair divorce in North Carolina will be to address issues like spousal misconduct. However, they worry that what they share in court will inevitably become part of the public record. Therefore, they feel as though they cannot talk about their spouse’s drug use or violent conduct out of fear of doing permanent reputation damage, for example. Others worry about what information the children will eventually learn. Thankfully, there are ways that couples in North Carolina can protect their privacy as they prepare for a divorce.
Asking to seal records
Occasionally, a family law judge in North Carolina will agree with individuals that sealing divorce records would be necessary and appropriate. Scenarios involving likely risk to someone’s physical well-being because of abuse or issues that could harm their children are among those who may hope to seal the records of their divorce cases. Sadly, judges rarely agree to formally seal the records of a divorce. Most of the time, the records of family court proceedings will become public record and will therefore be accessible to members of the public.
Attempting mediation before going to court
For those whose circumstances likely would not result in a judge sealing their records, divorce mediation could be a viable option. Unlike litigated divorce proceedings, which become part of the public record, mediation is a confidential process protected by state law. What couples discuss in mediation, ranging from family financial matters to interpersonal conflicts, will remain private. Only the final agreement that they sign and submit to the courts would be part of the public record during their divorce. For those who believe that issues from their marriage should factor into their divorce proceedings but who also wish to protect their privacy, mediation could be a reasonable way to handle the situation.
Identifying personal privacy as one of the top priorities early in a divorce process will make it easier for people to protect themselves from embarrassing or damaging information becoming part of the public record.