Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert: Divorce and Confidentiality
This week, country singers Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert announced their divorce after 4 years of marriage. According to the divorce documents that were obtained by In Touch Weekly, it was Blake who filed for divorce. In the documents, Blake used only the couple's initials instead of their full names. He also had the court documents sealed in order to prevent them from becoming public. Blake went to great lengths to keep the divorce private, even filing the divorce application in a different county (in Oklahoma) than where the couple resides.
Confidentiality is a major concern for most people who are going through divorce. Unfortunately for individuals who take their case to court, there is no guarantee that their personal information will remain private. Many divorce cases are reported online and in law journals that are widely accessible. In Canada, courts are reluctant to seal or restrict access to court files because of the "open court principle":
"The open court principle is of crucial importance in a democratic society. It ensures that citizens have access to the courts and can, as a result, comment on how courts operate and on proceedings that take place in them. Public access to the courts also guarantees the integrity of judicial processes inasmuch as the transparency that flows from access ensures that justice is rendered in a manner that is not arbitrary, but is in accordance with the rule of law" (Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Canada (Attorney General),  1 SCR 19 at paragraph 1).
Therefore sealing orders, confidentiality orders and/or publication bans are only granted in exceptional circumstances, such as child protection cases or where one of the spouses was a victim of domestic violence.
Blake and Miranda were able to keep their financial arrangements confidential because they had signed a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement, or marriage contract, is a domestic contract that is entered into before marriage and contemplates property division, spousal support, and other (mainly financial and property) issues in the event of a separation.
Parties may also resolve their matrimonial disputes by entering into a separation agreement after the marital breakdown has occurred. Separation agreements can settle the issues incidental to divorce (i.e. child custody and access, division of property, spousal and child support, etc.). Couples may attempt to negotiate the terms of their divorce alone or with the help of lawyers, with the goal of signing a confidential separation agreement.
To facilitate discussion and resolution, parties may consider using an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process such as mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, or mediation-arbitration. All of these non-litigation processes are entirely confidential and are not subject to the open court principle.