Divorcing couples who have high-assets – a high net worth divorce – are exposed to considerable risk if they litigate their divorce. Divorce proceedings are part of the public record: that means observers, including the press, are allowed in the courtroom. While you can petition the court to have your divorce filed under the caption of “Anonymous v. Anonymous,” your identity isn’t protected when you actually have to show up in court.
Sadly, news headlines often broadcast the private pains and scandals of many celebrities, high net worth divorcing couples and public figures:
- Rudy Giuliani and wife Judith Nathan ripped by judge for making divorce trial ‘unpleasant’: NY Daily News
- Bethenny Frankel breaks down on stand describing alleged abuse from ex: Page 6
- In Divorce Proceedings, Harry and Linda Macklowe Ordered to Sell Their $700 Million Art Collection: Art News; and Their Warhols Are at the Whitney. Their Ugly Divorce Is on Display, Too: New York Times
- Brother of Lauren Sanchez reportedly is source of Bezos’ leaked texts, photos: USAToday
High profile and wealthy couples who are divorcing have additional stress that comes from making their private marriage a public spectacle.
1. Personal choices can impact future opportunities: A private relationship can negatively impact stock prices, prevent board and other leadership positions, and bring into question their personal judgment and reliability. Drugs, cheating and other scandals can derail a career and tear apart families.
2. Private communications can become part of the public record: Texts, emails and other personal communications between the couple and others that are entered into court as evidence can appear in newspapers and gossip magazines.
3. Children are exposed: When divorce make headlines, the couple’s children and other innocent parties are hurt by information shared in court during the proceedings and live online forever.
A couple may go into a traditional divorce optimistically expecting it to be civil, only to realize during the process that the attorneys they’ve hired are actually leading them toward an all-out war. They also quickly discover that litigation means the loss of privacy, time – and expense – and start to wonder if there are other options.
How to Switch From a Litigated Divorce to Mediation or a Collaborative Divorce
If this sounds like your divorce or if it sounds like what you’re foreseeing in your future, it’s not too late to change to a different divorce process. Remember, this is your divorce and your children who are being put in the middle of your conflict, not your lawyer’s. For wealthy divorcing couples and public figures, switching to an alternative divorce option can be the right decision to preserve privacy, assets – and dignity.
Benefits of Divorce Alternatives
Some of the many reasons why celebrity and wealthy couples choose to divorce privately, and do not want divorce litigation include:
1. Private details about their life, marriage, habits, income, and stay private.
2. Child custody and support is confidential.
3. All parties – the divorcing couple, their attorneys, and members of the divorce team – are prohibited from speaking about the divorce.
4. Mediation or collaborative divorce is almost always less expensive and time consuming than litigation.
5. Creative, flexible solutions that aren’t available in court can be negotiated behind closed doors.
If your divorce attorney does not support you trying mediation or isn’t certified as a collaborative divorce attorney, you may want to switch to an attorney who can support you in the type of divorce that is right for you and your family. You may also need a lot of support during this process, and a team approach that includes using the services of a divorce financial professional and a divorce coach may help you achieve your goals.
If you don’t know how to move forward from a divorce that is feeling like a war to one that feels less adversarial and more cooperative, these are some good next steps:
- Ask for referrals: A trusted advisor, close friends or family may be able to recommend a lawyer whose goals are aligned with yours, or search online for “collaborative divorce lawyer” or “divorce mediation.”
- Request a consultation: Once you’ve identified a lawyer who provides the kind of divorce that is best for you, contact them and ask for a 2nd opinion to evaluate whether you and your spouse actually need the court to make decisions for you. Clearly explain why you are unhappy with your current divorce process, and what kind of divorce you want.
- Perform due process: A simple Google search followed by checking with your local bar association will verify the lawyer is in good standing.
- Advise your old lawyer: Tell your lawyer that you’ve decided to take another direction and ask that your records be sent to your new attorney.
Divorce is hard, and it is a lot of stress. Public scrutiny combined with mounting costs and delays that drag on with no end in sight take their toll. Vacca Law & Mediation can help you dissolve your marriages without litigation, and with discretion, privacy and expertise to find creative (and sometimes unconventional) solutions that are right for your unique situation. Contact us if you are ready to move forward with your divorce.