Virginia judge approves White House crashers’ divorce settlement

On behalf of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC posted in Divorce on Wednesday, August 29, 2012.

The celebrity couple that is best known for crashing the White House, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, recently had their confidential divorce settlement approved by a Virginia judge. Their divorce case demonstrates that while most court proceedings are public matters, it is possible for a couple to keep their divorce records under seal. Virginians simply need to be mindful of the public-private distinction and be sure to request that such records remain under seal if they go through a divorce.

Last year, Tareq filed for divorce in Warren County, Virginia, after he accused his wife of having an affair. Although the court proceedings have been pending for almost a year now, the couple's divorce was primarily an uncontested divorce. In fact, instead of having to proceed to trial, the couple actually recently reached a separation agreement, which the Virginia court approved. Since the Salahis requested that the Virginia court keep their divorce records under seal, this agreement is confidential and inaccessible by the public.

The Warren County Court's decision to seal the Salahis' divorce records is an option that is available to all Virginians going through a divorce. Usually, court matters -- including divorce proceedings -- are public matters. A court will not electively seal divorce records unless the situation presents a need for protection, like in matters involving domestic or sexual abuse. Typically, the couple or one of the spouses needs to make a request that the divorce proceedings be sealed. There are several reasons and benefits to sealing divorce records. For example, a couple may seek confidentiality to protect their children or to keep information like bank accounts and social security numbers private. The couple must highlight these reasons to the court, and the court will ultimately determine whether to grant confidentiality.

The Salahis' divorce is similar to many other Virginians' divorces. It marks the end of a marriage and is filled with complex emotional and financial issues. Often, requesting confidentiality can make the divorce proceedings easier and protect separating spouses and their other family members.

Source: The Washington Post, "Virginia judge signs off on White House crashers' divorce," Aug. 21, 2012.

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