Divorce Politics and Privacy

Connecticut State Senator Alex Kasser’s resignation is a very public reminder about the intersection of divorce, politics and privacy. The hard won seat for Democrats is now up for grabs by state Republicans in Greenwich.

Divorce Privacy Politics

Heartless in Hartford

Last week Connecticut state senator Kasser announced she is resigning, saying her ability to do her job has been harmed by a bitter divorce battle being waged by her husband, Seth Bergstein, a top Morgan Stanley executive. In her resignation statement posted on Medium, the Democrat from Greenwich wrote:

“Seth uses his powerful position at Morgan Stanley to enable his conduct, so I must work even harder to fight for my freedom.”

The stunning move comes two years after Kasser went public with her romantic relationship with a woman who had previously run her first Senate campaign and then briefly worked in her legislative office.

Kasser told her husband more than a decade ago told she is a lesbian, according to an op-ed she wrote in The Stamford Advocate newspaper last fall. Kasser, 54, charged on Tuesday that Bergstein “has tried to destroy” that same-sex partner, Nichola Samponaro, “with lies about our relationship and harassing court motions that mention her 56 times for no relevant reason — she had nothing to do with ending my marriage. I will not stay silent as a homophobic, entitled man attacks my partner.”

Bergstein, 55, is a senior managing director and head of global services at Morgan Stanley.

Florida Divorce Privacy

I’ve written on divorce privacy issues before. Divorce privacy is an issue that comes up a lot. Divorces in court are public events, and the filed records of court proceedings are public records available for public examination.

Both the public and the media can challenge any closure order by a divorce court. The closure of court proceedings or records should only really occur when it’s necessary to comply with established public policy, to protect trade secrets; or to protect children in a divorce among other reasons.

Florida also has new rules protecting sensitive data from public view. This includes protecting Social Security, Bank Account, Debit, and Credit Card Numbers because if those numbers are included in a document, they may become part of the public record.

If information is absolutely required, there is a rule with procedures for sealing and unsealing of court records. Also, the Clerk of Court has the authority to redact or make confidential only specific information.

If sensitive information has already been filed in Court Records, you must complete and submit a “Notice of Confidential Information Within Court Filing” in order to remove or seal it.

Divorce Power Politics

It is difficult to know where the balance of power in a relationship is when a powerful state senator admits to CNBC she no longer has contact with her three children with Bergstein.

Kasser made a splash in 2018 when she became the first Democrat in nearly 90 years to win the 36th District Senate seat, which includes Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan. Her narrow victory helped Democrats end two years of splitting control of the state Senate with Republicans. Last November, she doubled her margin of victory to 2.6% to win reelection to another two-year term. Kasser said a special election would determine her successor.

“I can no longer live or work in Greenwich as it is loaded with memories of the 20 years I spent raising my children here. It is too painful to be in Greenwich now that I’ve been erased from their lives, just as their father promised would happen if I ever left him.”

The senator’s surprise announcement also comes as she prepares for her divorce trial, set to begin in September in Stamford Superior Court, where her lawyers have sought to depose three Morgan Stanley employees over what they have suggested were improper efforts by the investment bank to obtain personal financial information from her.

“It is with deep sadness that I announce my resignation as State Senator. Serving the residents of Connecticut’s 36th Senate district has been a profound honor and a great joy. However, due to personal circumstances, I cannot continue. For nearly three years, I’ve been trying to divorce Seth Bergstein. As all survivors of domestic abuse know, emancipating ourselves is an epic struggle that takes years, requires unflinching courage and all our resources — mental, physical, and financial.”

Bergstein did not immediately return a request for comment. But his matrimonial lawyer, Janet Battey, in an email response to CNBC said, “Ms. Kasser’s outrageous allegations and narrative couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“Ms. Kasser sadly continues to wage a public battle in the press while simultaneously dragging out the court proceedings,” Battey said. “Throughout the marriage, Ms. Kasser described Seth as a devoted father and patient and loving husband. Seth and his three children sought to keep this matter private, but Ms. Kasser continues to make blatantly false public statements in furtherance of her own agenda.”

“Mr. Bergstein trusts the legal system and family court and that the upcoming trial will reveal Ms. Kasser’s narrative for what it is.”

The CNBC article is here.

 

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