Confidentiality agreements in divorce aren’t just for famous people who don’t want their exes (or soon-to-be-exes) going on social media or to the press with their grievances and spilling private details about their businesses, personal finances and the various divorce agreements in the process. There are a number of reasons why you may want to seek a confidentiality agreement before you begin the divorce process.
First, let’s look at what a divorce confidentiality agreement can protect. Typically, it’s drafted to prevent any document or information that wasn’t accessible to the other spouse or to the public prior to the divorce from being made public because of the divorce.
In most cases, people don’t include any separate personal accounts or other personal financial information in the confidentiality agreement (unless they are a well-known person and don’t want the public to know how much money they have – or how deeply in debt they might be). However, if you own a business, you have an obligation to your partners, clients and others not to let proprietary information be made public.
Generally, when there’s a confidentiality agreement, documents presented in the divorce to establish income, assets and other information relevant in property division and support requests will be labeled “confidential” if they’re to fall under the agreement. Confidential information is typically only to be disclosed to the other spouse, their attorneys and the court.
A confidentiality agreement should spell out the penalties – often financial ones — for unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. It should also detail how these documents are to be safely secured or disposed of after the divorce. For example, spouses often won’t be allowed to retain each other’s confidential information after the divorce is finalized.
If you believe you should seek a confidentiality agreement, talk with your family law attorney before any documents are exchanged with your spouse and their attorney. They can advise you about how best to craft an agreement that will protect you and others who could be harmed by disclosure of the type of information we’ve discussed here – and perhaps other information as well.