While perhaps it is sad to say that I am getting my family law news for the second day in a row from the New York Post, there was another article today about the Tiger Woods divorce that was food for thought. Specifically, the story advised that Tiger and his wife may ultimately file for divorce in Sweden, Elin Nordegren’s native country, in an effort to keep the details of the divorce a secret from the public.
Why would someone go through all of the trouble? Because divorce records, like must court records, are public records open to anyone who wants to see them. While in a blog we posted last year advised that there were new rules to protect identity theft, that only meant that certain information was to get redacted. Other documents like Case Information Statements, custody evaluation reports and the like remain confidential.
That said, every pleading and court order is typically part of the public file. That means, every accusation, allegation and gripe is now part of the public record. In a recent matter, though fault grounds such as extreme cruelty and adultery usually are not often plead anymore now that we have irreconcilable differences, the wife filed a counterclaim alleging both. This is over and above her bad mouthing her husband in the local and business community. Aside from the fact that it elevates the risk that the parties’ children will be exposed to matter, it also risks impacting the husband’s livelihood – which is contrary to the wife’s interests as she is seeking a healthy amount of alimony and child support.
Another client lamented that all a prospective employer would have to do is Google his name and read about the details of his life because her appellate decision is readily available. In this case, there was little choice because the matter had to be tried and was later appealed by the spouse.
In any event, since most people don’t have the option of filing for a secret divorce in Sweden, many aspects of their private life could be available for public consumption.