The divorce of Amazon executive Jeff Bezos and his wife has recently received a great deal of public attention. This kind of high profile divorce comes with its own set of challenges – for the couple and for attorneys like me who represent them.
In my career as a divorce lawyer I found that it is possible to manage, minimize, or even eliminate publicity with the right planning and involvement from experienced professionals. By the way, these tips are not simply for the rich and famous. These same principles can be used for others who seek to protect their privacy for many other reasons. They can help any divorcing couple to protect their children, their reputations and their financial security. They also help couples who do not want their friends, families, neighbors or the public hearing about their extremely personal matters.
In my practice, I’ve found that these strategies have proven effective:
Build the right team
Be prepared before launching a divorce action with an appropriate team of professionals that you can trust to be discreet, cautious and practical. This should include an attorney with experience in dealing with the media and high profile matters. They will develop an organized strategy for anticipating when, and under what circumstances, your personal matters are at risk for public consumption. The team may also include financial advisors, mental health professionals and crisis communications professionals with similar experience.
Plan before the case is filed
Once a case is filed in court, it generally becomes a matter of public record. Thus, before that step is taken, the parties and their counsel should be prepared for how, when and under what circumstances they will, or will not, respond to media and other inquiries. This may include written statements, a process for handling interview requests and media training that includes anticipating potential questions (and answers) that may be posed.
Create carefully prepared documents
The manner in which documents are negotiated, prepared and filed with the court should be the subject of thought, planning and creativity. A certain amount of information is required as a matter of public record, in most jurisdictions. There are, however, strategies and methods that seasoned and experienced attorneys understand can be used to protect the parties from the public dissemination of private financial information. This includes how financial statements are drafted and how settlement contracts are prepared. In some very high profile cases, the release of a party’s financial information could have an impact on the market in general or a specific company in particular. This could be the case in the Amazon divorce.
There are ways to keep your divorce private. These are just three of the things that should be considered by those who are worried about their divorce becoming a public spectacle. For Mr. and Mrs. Bezos, these (and other) considerations are likely part of their divorce process.