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A Divorce with No Name

By Nottage and Ward on July 31, 2018

What do former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Fox News television host Bill O’Reilly, actor Richard Gere, reality television star Bethenny Frankel, and a slew of millionaire celebrities all have in common?

They were each personally involved in what is called an anonymous divorce.

What is an anonymous divorce and why would a couple file for one? The main reason for a divorcing couple to file on the court’s dockets as “Anonymous v. Anonymous” is to keep an extremely personal and private matter just that: personal and private. In many states, divorce filings are open to the public and easily accessible to members of the media. By making a filing anonymous, prying eyes are kept away from the names of the litigants.

To provide an overview of an anonymous divorce, let’s look at one of the more well-known examples of such a legal action: the recently withdrawn divorce proceedings of former New York Representative Anthony Weiner and his wife, long-time Hillary Clinton assistant Huma Abedin.

In the instance of Weiner and Abedin, the latter petitioned for the anonymous filing in order to protect the couple’s 5-year-old child, a measure that courts will sometimes implement when cases involve child custody. Since this was a largely-publicized scandal involving pornography, sexting, an underage female, the FBI, and a New York City mayoral campaign, Abedin’s anonymity appeal was reasonable. However, the judge ruled against the request, and in a courtroom filled with members of the press, said the following: “I appreciate the parties’ request to keep this as quiet as possible, but as a practical matter, it does not appear to me that despite your attempt to have this be anonymous, it’s particularly anonymous.”

Anonymous divorce cases are quite rare, though in recent years, more and more wealthy couples and celebrities have sought the anonymous status for their proceedings to stay out of the spotlight. Of course, filing for an anonymous divorce can backfire in the event that the act of choosing to be “anonymous” leaks out. This can lead some in the media to investigate the issue, wondering why the divorcing parties chose the unidentified status for their divorce, which would ironically—and perhaps, in some cases, intentionally—put the separating couple on the front page of the tabloids.

If you’re in the Chicago area and have questions about divorce, contact the legal team at Nottage and Ward, LLP. We have over 25 years of experience involving Illinois divorce and family law. You can call us at (312) 332-2915 for more information.

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