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When Should Divorce Proceedings Be Closed and Records Sealed? Top Divorce Attorneys Believe in Limited Circumstances.

CHICAGO, Nov. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Ninety percent of the nation's top divorce attorneys surveyed say they have participated in divorce cases where records were sealed and almost half have participated where part of the divorce proceeding was closed.

However, there is disagreement over to what degree the trend is increasing and necessary, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the nation's top 1,600 divorce and matrimonial law attorneys, who are holding their annual meeting here this week.

"It's something most of us have experienced but frankly, the application of closed hearings and sealed records can vary significantly from state to state and judge to judge," according to Richard F. Barry, Academy president.

A majority of those surveyed at the meeting believe that privacy issues can outweigh the public's right to know when the issues involve the testimony of minors, to prevent minors from hearing embarrassing information about their parents, third-party testimony by psychiatrists and other experts about a spouse and sensitive financial matters.

A majority of attorneys surveyed did not view the notoriety of the divorcing spouses or embarrassing information about them being made public as sufficient to outweigh the public's right to know.

More than 40 percent of those surveyed said they thought the sealing of records was becoming a more common practice.

"Particularly with the Internet and identity theft, privacy in divorce cases is going to be a growing issue," according to Barry.

Barry also noted that there are other mechanisms to protect privacy, such as use of arbitration.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers is composed of the nation's top 1,600 attorneys who are experts in the specialized field of matrimonial law, including divorce, prenuptial agreements, legal separation, annulment, custody, property valuations, support and the rights of unmarried cohabitors. The purpose of the Academy is to encourage the study, improve the practice, elevate the standards and advance the cause of matrimonial law to the end that the welfare of the family and society be preserved.

CONTACT: Jonathan Dedmon of The Dilenschneider Group, Inc., +1-312-553-0700, or cell, +1-312-415-1352
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Date:Nov 4, 2004
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