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Should The Public Have Access To Donald Trump's Divorce Records?

American citizens have learned a lot about our two presidential candidates in recent months as they make their run for the White House. We have learned the good, the bad, the ugly and just about everything else in between with regard to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. However, there is one source of information the voters and the media have not been able to get ahold of and that is Donald Trump's divorce records concerning his 1990 divorce from Ivana Trump.

The New York Times and the Gannett Newspaper Group attempted to obtain Mr. Trump's divorce records which were previously sealed per the former couple's post-nuptial agreement.[1] Presumably citing the public's need to know all aspects regarding the past lives of its presidential candidates, the media outlets wanted access to private, intimate, familial information between Mr. Trump and Ms. Trump-information that was pertinent roughly twenty five (25) years ago.

The former couple was granted a divorce in New York, and therefore the law of that state had to be considered before any records could be unsealed. "New York law permits access to divorce records when a protected party waives the protection by raising the issue in litigation."[2] However, such is not the case because Ms. Trump has done nothing of the sort. In fact, the desire to unseal the records has nothing to do with Ms. Trump. Instead, media outlets have requested the confidential information to either bolster or smear Mr. Trump's reputation, depending on the news source, in the last few months before that crucial November date.

Judge Frank Nervo, a New York City Civil Court Judge for New York County, got it right.[3] Due to the fact that Ms. Trump has not raised the confidentiality protection in litigation, Judge Nervo correctly ruled that the divorce records will remain sealed to protect her confidentiality rights which were written into the post-nuptial agreement she entered into with Mr. Trump.[4] Judge Nervo stated that "though Donald Trump is running for office, Ivana Trump is not, and there is no ground to deprive her of her rights under the confidentiality provision."[5]

Judge Nervo went on to state that Mr. Trump's sealed divorce records should not be a deciding factor in his fitness for office.[6]Instead, voters should evaluate Mr. Trump's fitness for office on his compliance with election law and not his former familial relationships or how such relationships ended.[7] Because this confidential information should not be considered by voters in their candidacy choice, Judge Nervo correctly concluded the confidential records should not be made "available for journalistic and thus, public, scrutiny."[8] And no matter what was inside those sealed records, public scrutiny was sure to occur.

At times this election has seemed to be more about which candidate is the bigger celebrity and not about which candidate is a better fit for the White House. It is almost certain that public scrutiny would twist the divorce records any which way to mold Mr. Trump into compliance with varying feelings and opinions about the candidate, whether good or bad. However, as Judge Nervo also touched on, Mr. Trump's divorce involved an innocent party whose rights must continue to be protected.[9] These sealed records also involve Ms. Trump and her personal, intimate, familial relationships as well; therefore Judge Nervo got it right by denying media access.

Running for President of the United States is no joke and while I understand that the more knowledge we as voters have about our candidates the better, there does come a point in the process where information no longer becomes relevant, or was never relevant at all, and this is the perfect example. No matter what your feelings are toward Mr. Trump or your opinion as to how he would run our county, there is no argument in favor of the relevancy for the release of this sealed record. As Judge Nervo stated, voters should base their feelings and opinions of Mr. Trump on his compliance with election law, not what he and his former spouse were awarded in a divorce twenty five (25) years ago.[10] Voters should consider the many other aspects of Mr. Trump, such as his business acumen or his lack of political experience (depending on your opinion of the candidate), when casting their vote for president instead of private, intimate, familial records.

Donald Trump may be a candidate for the United States presidency, but neither he nor his former wife is exceptional when it comes to issues that may arise during or after marital dissolution. At Cole Law Group in Brentwood, TN, our family law attorneys are a dedicated group of individuals who will take your family law matters and concerns seriously and are committed to vigorously protecting your rights and entitlements.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cole Law Group, PC or its employees.

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