Tennessee Bar Association Seeking to Delay Public Disclosure of Divorce Filings

Agreed Divorces
January 2, 2015
Court of Appeals clarifies what constitutes mediation duress and that no hearing is necessary for entry of a Final Decree of Divorce based upon Irreconcilable Differences
January 5, 2015

In today’s Daily Times is an article apparently lifted directly from The Associated Press NASHVILLE. This is particularly interesting given the Daily Times history of printing these filings regardless of whether there are pending criminal charges such as Domestic Violence, allegations of concerns regarding the children once the defendant spouse learns of the divorce filing, or even a pending Order of Protection (which the article correctly notes might not have been served on the Defendant spouse at the time of the filing of the divorce).

I have not seen the legislation proposed by the Tennessee Bar Association, but it seems strange that it would include a provision to automatically allow the disclosure after 10 days regardless of whether the Defendant spouse has been served.

It will be interesting to see the actual proposed legislation because taking any action which suggests prior restraint of a news source publication usually fails. Especially when the proponent states that they are unaware of “any specific instances of violence,” and that”the group is trying to be proactive.”

Article as published by the Daily Times here (could not get the link to work):

The Tennessee Bar Association is pushing for legislation this year that would delay when the public is notified about divorce filings.Bar association Director Allan Ramsaur told The Tennessean the proposal would close what could be a dangerous gap because cases sometimes become public before a responding husband or wife has been notified and served with a protective order.

“Respondents find out that their spouse has filed for divorce before safety plans can be put in place or before restraining orders can be served,” TBA President Jonathan Steen said in a statement. “We think a targeted solution to this problem is that information about the filing of divorce should be delayed until the respondent is served.”Attorneys say there’s a risk of retribution due to the timing and will ask lawmakers to consider a proposal that would keep initial filings secret.

Ramsaur said the group will propose a law exempting divorce filings from public record “until served or 10 days, whichever occurs first.

”According to the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, there were nearly 30,000 divorces filed in the fiscal year ending in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available.

Ramsaur says the law requires a protective order with each case, though a more stringent restraining order can be sought if there’s a threat of harm.

He could not recall any specific instances of violence, but says the group is trying to be proactive.

He said some newspapers publish new divorce filings the next day.Tennessee Coalition for Open Government Direc-tor Deborah Fisher said the proposed bill could warrant keeping an eye on, though it’s not currently on her radar.“Any legislation that seeks to change the public records law or the open meetings act, we would want to track and look at and see how it would impact the public’s right to know,” she said.