Chris Rock, Divorce and Privacy

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Thursday, January 15, 2015.

Comedian Chris Rock filed for divorce. E! News obtained papers alleging his wife has kept his two daughters away from him! Celebrities, professionals and the wealthy have a hard time keeping their court papers private.

As a recent Forbes magazine article notes, for celebrities and wealthy clients, protecting children in divorce often means preserving the family’s good name and legacy for future generations.

“Celebrity clients nearly always arrive at a settlement rather than going to trial. After legal costs, privacy concerns are probably the biggest reason why”

In New York, there is an expectation of privacy in court filings. New York and other states grant document access to court filings only to litigants and counsel.

But this create a false sense of confidence. There is a thriving market for salacious information on high-profile families which makes it difficult to prevent leaks.

I’ve written before about Florida’s policy regarding the privacy and confidentiality of court records. Court records don’t just mean the contents of the court file. They also include transcripts, exhibits, videotapes and stenographic deposition tapes.

In an effort to protect privacy and prevent identity theft, Florida adopted a confidentiality rule to better protect social security and bank account numbers for instance. But Florida court filings are not private.

Privacy – and confidentiality of court filings – are easily overlooked issues when filing for divorce, and something you should be aware of.

For the past ten years, there has been a lot of effort put into developing safeguards, policies, and infrastructure needed to authorize public access to non-confidential electronic court records.

For instance, the Florida Supreme Court adopted a rule to define confidential court records and limit the public’s access to them. At the same time, there are divorce rules which require you to identify confidential information in court papers.

Even when documents are supposed to be confidential though, private information has a pesky way of becoming public.

Tort claims are often added to divorce complaints. These can include allegations of assault or sexually transmitted diseases.

Even if unfounded these accusations can be harmful to your personal and professional relationships. In filing for divorce, you have to understand the expectation in your jurisdiction regarding how the filings are kept private.

Even if records are protected, there has to be the “reality” check of whether in fact the information can and will remain private.

“Chris Rock has filed for divorce from his wife, Malaak,” the actor’s rep told E! News Monday. “This is a personal matter and Chris requests privacy as he and Malaak work through this process and focus on their family.”

Good luck with that Chris. The Forbes article can be read here.