In the Alaska court system, court proceedings and court files are open to the public, with certain limited exceptions such as Child In Need of Aid proceedings. This can present a challenge to parties to a divorce action who may not want their finances to be a matter of public record. The court system does protect the parties’ Social Security numbers to a limited extent. Here are a few tips to discuss with your divorce attorney to protect your finances from becoming part of your court file.
• Personal tax returns. Where child support is an issue, you will be required to file your tax returns and wage information with the court. You should request your attorney to black out the Social Security numbers on the tax returns.
• Personal financial and investment account statements. Your attorney or the opposing attorney may want to use personal bank statements, investment statements, and other financial data such as loan applications, mortgage statements, or credit card statements as trial exhibits. You should request your attorney to remove bank account numbers, except for the last four digits, and social security numbers on any trial exhibits. You and your attorney should check your spouse’s trial exhibits to make sure that they have also removed bank account numbers and social security numbers.
• Settlement agreements. If you and your spouse negotiate a property and/or custody settlement agreement, one of the attorneys will reduce the terms of the agreement to writing. The agreement will be filed in court for approval by the judge assigned to your case. To protect your financial information, the agreement should include a description of the asset or liability and it should indicate how each item has been allocated in the property division. It should not include values or account numbers. Since the judge will need to know how the parties arrived at their property division, the settlement agreement should state the parties have attached a property table in an envelope marked “Confidential.” This property table should show the values the parties used to arrive at their property division so that the judge has sufficient information to approve the settlement agreement. But if the agreement is clear that the table is confidential, then only the judge will have access to the table, which will not become part of your court file.
Since every case is unique, you should discuss any concerns you have about protecting your financial data with your attorney.
Posted in: Divorce