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Colorado public divorces do hold some privacy options

This moment in history is not privacy’s finest hour. If you’re getting a divorce, you may not want Colorado to publicize the details. But proceedings in the Colorado court system are matters of public record, including divorce proceedings, at least by default.

Colorado’s presumption of public openness has obvious virtues. There are great reasons why we should get to see what courts do in our name. But in some cases, it can have troublesome and or even dangerous consequences. There are some exceptions and strategies you can turn to for some privacy when you’re getting a divorce.

Convincing the court to seal the records

When you legally marry in Colorado, your marriage certificate goes public. The romance of announcing your relationship to the world probably wears off by the time you file for divorce and arrive at a settlement. Still, the court approves those too and they’re also generally available to the public. That includes custody, spousal support and other terms.

At its discretion, though, the court can seal these documents. For example, the divorce may involve sexual abuse, abuse of children or other factors potentially more pressing than the public’s right to open courts.

Mediation is not a public process

Many people find plenty of reasons to use mediation for their separation. It tends to be less costly, faster and less stressful, for example. And crucially, mediation is its own legal negotiation process subject to different privacy laws. It’s public that a divorce occurred, but the terms of your legal separation agreement aren’t filed with the court at all.

It’s not simply that you don’t conduct the mediation in open court. Mediation has elaborate privacy safeguards that ethically bind licensed attorneys and courts. (There are exceptions for some situations, such as threatening or admitting to serious crimes during mediation.)

Another advantage of mediation is it doesn’t force you to come to any agreement. If negotiations break down, you can always go to divorce court after all. While that would mean some sacrifice of privacy, all negotiations during mediation remain confidential.

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