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Judge determines that divorce documents are public record

Late last month, a judge refused to grant a motion from a party in a divorce to seal the records of those proceedings. At issue, was a request from Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman to keep details of her divorce from her ex-husband Paul Volkman private. Volkman filed for divorce from Neuman on March 24 in Anne Arundel County. Without a hearing, the case was later sealed per the request of Neuman's attorney on April 1. For some reason, Volkman's attorney also agreed to the sealing.

At some point afterward, a newspaper requested that the case be unsealed. That is when the case was moved to a court in Queen Anne's County to hear arguments as to why the case should remained sealed. At the hearing in Centreville, Maryland, on May 21, the judge ordered the divorce records opened. According to the judge, in Maryland divorce records are considered public documents unless one of the parties provides a special and compelling reason as to why they should be sealed.

Neuman's attorney tried to argue that she is a public official and that release of certain details regarding her divorce from her husband might be reported in the news and harm the couple's two children. The judge wasn't moved by that argument and said that the couple would have to show that someone was using the records inappropriately in order for the seal to remain intact. Later in the hearing, Neuman's attorney said that his client was in the midst of a hotly contested election and that she was worried that her political opponent might use details of the couple's divorce as a campaign strategy.

The judge did not allow the motion. The divorce documents are now public record.

People considering a divorce in Maryland should know that there are many things which can occur throughout the process which they may not have considered. Divorce is naturally fraught with a myriad of arcane rules and procedures that even an otherwise knowledgeable person might find daunting.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Judge orders Neuman divorce case to remain open" Pamela Wood, May. 21, 2014

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