This US Weekly article of the 101 “splits” in 2022 – before the year is even over – got me thinking about the clickbait nature of divorce for celebrities (the article is not limited to divorce). My practices is devoted to local family law matters in New Jersey and in part New York. New Jersey family law matters are public, meaning that the pleadings filed (complaints, motions, court orders, and so on) can be accessed by any public person. Even in New Jersey public matters, though, certain aspects are withheld from the accessible file, such as Case Information Statements (setting forth relevant dates and addresses, income, budget, assets, liabilities, and affixing tax returns and paystubs) and the ultimate settlement agreement if you the matter resolves without the need for trial. However, once those documents are attached to a motion as an exhibit, they also become public because the motion is public. When I say public, a person has to actually request the file or aspect from the file from the clerk’s office. New Jersey does not (yet) have a searchable system to just randomly pull documents from. Of course we represent high profile clients, but the status of their documents remains the same.
Each case is handled with care and confidentiality. Despite the open courtroom, sometimes a judge will clear a courtroom from non-participants. This is especially true post COVID-19 pandemic because we have more staggered cases as compared to the old protocol of everyone being scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and waiting their turn in the courtroom. In other words, the sensitivity of family law matters, despite the public filing, is often considered.
Those who know me know that I love celebrity gossip as much as the Instagram bloggers, US and People have been part of my reading materials since before I would like to admit, and I miss the days of E! True Hollywood Story but do keep up with the E! app… so I understand the hypocrisy.
But today I saw this article not as a consumer but as a family lawyer. I know with my clients, each one is experiencing a different breakdown of a relationship. Some may be happy it’s over but that does not alleviate the pain of the divorce process. Others are devastated. Emotions run high and that is to be expected, regardless of how the breakdown of the relationship occurred. So, I started thinking, how would people I have worked with react to having their divorce serve as clickbait? My guess is not well, and I cannot blame them. Celebrity divorce is and always will be a hot topic. I would just prefer, though, if it’s issue related such as how parenting time will work in the case of Giselle and Tom given Tom’s ongoing football career, or how Kim was able to bifurcate her divorce but still has ongoing issues to address and her ex-husband publicizing parenting time disputes… these things we can learn from. But the fact that US was able list 101 splits as of November 2022 is not as interesting as it is sad.
Anyway, that’s my takeaway from today. Handle the case, the client, the children, with care. No one’s life is just for one internet click.
__________________________________________________________________________________________Lindsay A. Heller is a partner in the firm’s Family Law practice, based in its Morristown, NJ office. You can reach Lindsay at 973.548.3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.