Privacy is very important for many Alabama residents. For example, some individuals may not want others knowing about all of their property interests or business assets. Yet, when a couple gets a divorce, particularly a high asset divorce, there can be questions of what information becomes public and what information stays private.
Take, for instance, the divorce of NASCAR Chairman Brian France, who went through a highly disputed divorce with his wife for years. The high-profile couple entered into a prenuptial agreement showing he was worth $554 million at the time of his second marriage in 2005. Upon the couple’s divorce, Brian agreed to pay $9 million to his wife, as well as $32,500 per month in alimony through 2017, and other assets like the couple’s $3.2 million home.
The above information was originally sealed in the couple’s divorce case. However, after media made requests to unseal the documents, the court complied and made the information public.
As a general matter, divorce proceedings are public, just as any other court proceeding, meaning the filings are matters of public record. Accordingly, in order to make the information not available to the public, individuals must typically ask the court to file the records under seal, which limits who can view the documents.
Courts will usually weigh the person’s need to keep the documents private against the presumption that court proceedings are matters open to the public. For example, matters involving children may be kept private, including the children’s identification.
In a high asset divorce, there may be a need to protect proprietary business information, which could potentially be filed under seal. In addition, an individual’s social security number and other private information will be protected. Ultimately, individuals can work with their attorney to determine what information may need to be kept private, and how to best present this need to the court.
Source: My Fox 8, “Divorce documents show Nascar Chairman’s wealth,” May 10, 2013