Ending a marriage is emotional and overwhelming. It can have a huge impact on your family, work and financial life. When we think of the end of a marriage, we often picture standing in a courtroom while lawyers argue. Fortunately, there are ways to keep the intimate details out of the public eye. Working with legal counsel that you trust is the first step to maintaining your privacy. However, there are other ways to protect yourself:
Resolve disputes outside of Court
There are two ways to terminate your marriage in Ohio. The first is traditional divorce, which potentially involves several Court hearings, Court-ordered exchanges of documentation, depositions, initial pleadings, motions by each party, and decisions from the Court. Anything filed with the Court is public record. The second is dissolution, which encompasses more flexible options for resolving your matter. The options included in dissolution are a great way to keep your matter private. Here are options that may allow you and your spouse to keep your matter more private:
- Mediation– This option involves you and your spouse, your respective attorneys, and a third-party mediator. Mediation is often held once the parties have attempted to exchange all relevant documents and work with each other outside of Court. Mediation is a tool used to resolve areas where you are your spouse cannot agree. It can look different in each matter. However, it is most likely that the mediator will identify areas in which you and your spouse do not agree and work with you and your respective attorneys to resolve those disagreements. Mediation does not always end in resolution of an entire matter, but occasionally will bring the parties to a place where they can negotiate the outstanding disagreements to avoid a more public resolution. Often the parties will come to a global agreement, which will then be drafted in a Separation Agreement, or a Parenting Plan, if application, by the attorneys. These documents will then be submitted to the Court, which will resolve all matters required by the Court in order to legally terminate a marriage.
- The Collaborative Process – As we have discussed in prior blog posts, the Collaborative Process will always involve you, your spouse, and your respective attorneys, and will often involve a Family Relations Specialist and/or a Financial Specialist (the “Team”). This forms Team, which will guide you and your spouse through the Collaborative Process. The Team will sign the Participation Agreement, which will formally begin the Collaborative process. Next, there is an information gathering phase, which involves a more open exchange of financial documents and any other information that might be material to the resolution of your matter, including information involving parenting. The Team will hold several team meetings to process the information that was gathered and help you and your spouse come to an agreement. This agreement is then formalized in a Separation Agreement and, if applicable, a Parenting Plan. Just like in Mediation, these documents are then submitted to the Court, while will resolve all matters required by the Court in order to legally termination your marriage.
In order to end your marriage, you will have to file documents with the Court that will become public record. However, the options explored in this blog post allow you and your spouse to control what information is included in those documents, thereby allowing you to control what information becomes public record. If you have questions about more private ways to terminate your marriage, consult with your attorney about what might be right for you, your spouse, and your children.