Going through a divorce can be one of the most vulnerable times in your life, especially as you watch other people discuss your personal details. And in fact, court pleadings and motions are matters of public record, which means that many documents related to the dissolution of marriage, as Missouri calls divorce, are indeed public. But there are steps you can take to protect your privacy. Let’s explore some of them.
To minimize publicly available personal information, the state does provide a “Confidential Information Sheet,” which the parties must fill out as part of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (PDF). The information on this form is exclusively for the court’s use and is not publicly available.
Moreover, either party can request that the court keep individual pleadings under seal: These documents would still given to the court, but only the judge and court officers could review them. However, it’s important to realize that a judge has broad discretion in granting or denying such a request. In general, the judge will make a decision based on whether the public revelations could harm either of the parties or their children.
Beyond those forms, you and your spouse can work together to limit the private information that is made public. One strategy is to decide to pursue an out-of-court alternative such as mediation. With these, you can file a generic divorce agreement, and keep the more personal details out of an open court hearing.
While doing your best to maintain as much privacy as possible during a divorce, don’t forget the most obvious: Maintain control over your documents. Meaning, don’t forget about your electronic communications, including text messages and emails. Always make sure to log out of all of your accounts. Change passwords, access codes and security questions to new versions that your ex-spouse wouldn’t know or be able to guess.
Going through a divorce can be stressful on many levels, but an experienced attorney can guide you through the process. Send us a message or call us at (314) 454-9100 when you’re ready to take positive steps toward protecting your privacy during divorce.
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