Before you and your spouse get down to the business of your divorce, such as disclosing all of your assets and debts and beginning your negotiations for property division, child custody and support, it may be wise to think about getting a confidentiality agreement.
You don’t have to be a famous person worried that your financial information will end up on the front page of a tabloid to have good reason to ask for a confidentiality agreement. If you own a business, for example, you may need to disclose proprietary information that cannot be made public. Even if you’re an employee, your compensation may be part of corporate records that have to remain confidential.
You may not want personal financial information to get out, either. If you’re well-known in your community or your industry, you may want to keep this information private. The same is true for information involving your children or other private matters.
What exactly does a confidentiality agreement do?
Each agreement is unique to the couple. However, most typically spell out things like:
- The documents to be labeled “confidential”
- Who can access the documents (typically the spouses, attorneys, the court and any expert witnesses or other professionals retained by either party)
- How to dispose of the documents after the divorce is finalized
Generally, a confidentiality agreement remains in effect after the divorce unless the parties agree otherwise.
What if you want a confidentiality agreement and your spouse doesn’t?
If you have a good reason, like one of those discussed above, for a confidentiality agreement, the court will likely grant it. An agreement doesn’t prevent your spouse and those working with them in the divorce or the judge from seeing any necessary information. It just stipulates that it can’t be released to the press, on social media or to anyone who doesn’t need to have it. Your spouse likely isn’t going to be able to make a case that they should be able to do whatever they want with the information.
If you’re considering asking for a confidentiality agreement, it’s crucial to get that in place before any information that might be included in it is exchanged or presented. That’s just one reason why it’s wise to have experienced legal guidance even before you file for divorce.