You’ve probably heard about celebrity couples having confidentiality agreements as part of their divorce. You may not think you need that. After all, the tabloids probably aren’t interested in why your marriage is ending or the terms of your property division or support orders.
However, these agreements can help protect your business and your professional reputation. Let’s look at reasons why you may want to consider seeking a confidentiality agreement before you turn over any information to your spouse and their legal team.
One of the first things you’ll both be required to do is fully disclose all of your assets and debts. If you own your own business, this might include information on financial performance, client data, potential mergers or acquisitions and more that you don’t want to get into the public domain.
Even if you aren’t an owner of the business you work for, you may be asked to provide information that is subject to non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) – particularly if you’re an officer or executive. If that’s the case, it’s best to check with your employer’s legal department before turning it over as part of your financial disclosures.
A confidentiality agreement can also help prevent your soon-to-be-ex from disclosing personal information that could harm your reputation and potentially your career. You likely won’t get a judge to approve a confidentiality agreement just because you’re concerned about the other parents at your kids’ school or the people at your country club finding out that you’re getting help for a drug problem or had multiple affairs. However, if you can show that if this information got out, it would cause financial harm, they’re more likely to agree to it.
A good rule of thumb is that information that wasn’t publicly known prior to a divorce shouldn’t get into the public because of the divorce. If everyone could be trusted to abide by that rule, we wouldn’t need confidentiality agreements.
However, emotions can run high – even during amicable divorces. Revenge can make people feel better for a moment. Having a confidentiality agreement that subjects those who violate it to financial penalties (and likely the disapproval of the judge overseeing the divorce) can be a worthwhile preventative measure. With sound legal guidance, you can decide if it’s a good idea to seek one and, if so, improve your chances of getting it.