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DivorceAren’t Divorce Records Private? Media Outlets Unsuccessfully Probe for Access to Trump’s 1990 Divorce File

November 15, 2016

Can you imagine airing your marital dirty laundry with the public? Most of us can’t, but that’s exactly what happens to many celebrities and others involved in high-profile marriages and breakups. Fortunately, in New York, most divorce files are sealed from public view. With election season in high gear, there was a recent attempt by some media outlets to obtain access to the divorce file of Donald Trump and his first wife, Ivana.

The New York Times and the Gannett Company recently requested access to Mr. Trump’s 1990 divorce file. The media outlets argued that some material in the file was “directly relevant” to the upcoming presidential election.

How? Before the second debate, Mr. Trump held a press conference with several women who alleged that Mr. Clinton behaved inappropriately with them. Some of the women also asserted that they were attacked by Mrs. Clinton. In headline news, several women have alleged that Mr. Trump touched them inappropriately, as well, and the former Mrs. Trump had previously alleged that Mr. Trump sexually assaulted her during their marriage.

The position of the media outlets that requested access to the file is that marital fidelity and candidate credibility are core issues in this year’s presidential election.

Generally speaking, most divorce files in New York are confidential. However, there is an exception when one of the former spouses waives confidentiality by raising a relevant issue in later litigation. It appears that the media outlets argued that Mr. Trump waived any claim of confidentiality over his file by raising an issue about Mr. Clinton’s fidelity in the campaign.

The judge, however, disagreed and refused to unseal the file. He stated that the “court’s role in the electoral process [wa]s strictly limited to determining whether a candidate complies with the Election Law.” In addition, the judge stated that the former Mrs. Trump, who opposed disclosure of the records, was not seeking office.

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If you need legal assistance in a family law matter, contact us or call (212) 683-9551 to arrange for a consultation. We look forward to helping you.

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