Divorce Without Disaster - More on Privacy

This is the 12th of a serialization of Janet P. Brumley's book about Collaborative law, called Divorce Without Disaster. This post is Chapter 2, part 4 of the book.

When litigants go to the courthouse for a hearing or an attorney's office for a deposition or witness statement, proceedings are usually on the record. People who value privacy are suddenly in an open courtroom discussing their sex lives, their finances and their taxes. This is all recorded by a court reporter and saved for posterity. Inventories and appraisements listing all the parties' assets and liabilities (complete with account numbers) are routinely filed with the district clerk of their county of residence.

Parties who resolve their divorces with collaborative law do so behind closed doors in their attorneys' offices. The law prohibits attorneys from disclosing anything they have heard, except in cases where someone declares an intent to commit a crime or poses a continuing threat of child abuse.

"Collaborative law is a cooperative effort, not a public forum," observes Mary Jo McCurley, a partner in the Dallas firm of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing L.L.P. and former chair of the family law section of the State Bar of Texas. "With collaborative law, you can settle the case with a scalpel rather than a hatchet, which is what you get in court. Because the parties have crafted the agreement themselves, they own it more than if a judge has told them what to do. They're more likely to follow the terms of the agreement."