More often than not, when a notable company’s senior executive or major shareholder goes through the divorce process in court, the details of their case and eventual outcome will be splashed across the news as fodder for commentators discussing what the marriage’s demise may mean for the company. This lack of privacy in the divorce process is daunting. What if you do not want the whole world to know the intimate details of your marriage and its current downfall? What if you do not want the most personal details of your life to be just a google search away in some instances? How can you maintain anonymity and prevent your divorce from negatively impacting your business?
Keeping your divorce process private, even for the most discrete individual, is actually quite difficult. Courtrooms often allow anyone to sit in the gallery and listen to proceedings. Kimberly A. Cook, principal mediator at Dovetail Conflict Resolution, LLC, notes that “if you have a litigated divorce in the state of Illinois, the information related to the divorce may be open to the public. While certified divorce records are strictly accessible to the parties and their legal representatives, divorce records are also available to any persons who can demonstrate a direct or tangible interest in the information. In most cases, a third-party individual, employer or media outlet is able to demonstrate a direct or tangible interest in the underlying divorce matter in order to access the divorce documents which are held by the County.”
This could be extremely problematic for business owners and c-suite executives where the outcome of his or her divorce may concern shareholders and investors and could wreak havoc on their company. So, how can you ensure your divorce remains private? Often, the answer is, mediation.
In mediation, a neutral third-party facilitates conversations between spouses to assist in making decisions regarding the dissolution of the marriage. The process is a non-adversarial process in which the parties are empowered to make their own decisions. The parties and the mediator identify issues, discuss them in order to evaluate their options, and make decisions. Some mediators will draft an agreement memorializing the party’s settlement, while others will draft an agreed-upon term sheet for the parties to present to an attorney to draft an agreement.
In a mediation, the mediator maintains the confidentiality of the entire process, from information he or she obtains from the parties during the mediation, to documents shown to the mediator, or information disclosed to the mediator by a non-party participant. The final outcome of mediation is known only to the mediator, parties, and whomever the parties share the information.
Importantly, when you mediate a divorce, you are also able to control the message and ensure that not only will nobody know what is said during the process, but also any agreement that you reach with your spouse will remain confidential. The mediation process allows you to keep the agreement out of court entirely without decreasing its effectiveness. Herein lies the beauty of mediation according to Ms. Cook because “except for certain exceptions (e.g. necessary to protect against a criminal act), mediation is a confidential process preventing the disclosure of the topics discussed, information shared and the negotiations, thereby providing clients with the confidence to engage in the candid discussion of sensitive matters involving their finances, children or personal matters which, if known, could lead to resolution.”
Mediation is by no means easy; you and your spouse are charged with rolling up your sleeves and coming to an agreement, but the benefits can be extraordinary, with increased privacy and confidentiality and the ability to set the agenda and determine the outcome for yourself and your family. This coupled with the benefit of absolute privacy is just one of the many reasons that mediation is often the best solution, even where parties are unknown to the public.