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Can Divorce Documents Remain Private?

For celebrities, being a public figure comes with the territory.  The question is, what part of their private lives should remain private? 

No one likes airing out their dirty laundry and high-profile people are no exception.  That’s why most celebrities and high-profile figures keep the details of their divorce settlements private, especially when child custody issues are involved.   Unless it is a juvenile case, it is impossible to seal an entire judgment, according to notable retired Superior Family Court Judge of California Eugene Hyman.  With good, smart lawyers however, parts of the judgment can be sealed.

There are different laws in different states in terms of allowances of what and what cannot be filed in terms of a judgment.  Judge Hyman says that what can be done is to start with a basic document and that document makes reference to other documents that is the existence of other documents, without the specificity of what those other documents provide.

Another alternative to keep judgments private is going to private judges, through arbitration or mediation where orders are made by the arbitrators or mediators and these orders reference certain documents.  It takes some effort if both parties want things private but as soon as one says no, it’s public.

Regarding child custody issues, in the divorce case of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, if Tom wanted to hypothetically send their daughter Suri to scientology camp and Katie says no and it can’t be resolved themselves, they would need to go to a courtroom, decreasing the likelihood it would remain private.  Source: www.celebuzz.comValuations of a child would remain private but the decision a judge would make would likely be public.  Parties can go to a private judge to keep things private as well.

Typically, when there is a child involved, both parties usually want to keep things private, as this is in the best interest of the child.  When this is the motivating factor, it is more likely both parties will work together to achieve that.

Eugene Hyman is a retired Superior Court Judge of California for the County of Santa Clara.  In addition to his numerous appearances on tv news shows, he is a featured commentator with The Legal Broadcast Network.  For more information, visit and