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Court records from testimony in 1988 divorce case make news

As the presidential race pulls into the home stretch, the names Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are pretty much inescapable. But few people could have predicted that one candidate's testimony from a 1988 Massachusetts divorce proceeding would be the subject of media headlines.

In late October, a Massachusetts judge agreed to release Mitt Romney's testimony from the 1988 divorce proceedings of one of his business associates, who was the chief executive of Staples. During the testimony, Romney, then director of investment firm Bain Capital, was asked a number of questions about his dealings with Staples and its stock price, which was a key factor in the property division aspect of his business associate's contentious divorce proceedings.

This case illustrates another reason why avoiding court litigation in a divorce can be preferable; you never know when your previous comments will be dragged back up, or why, for that matter. Massachusetts court records and proceedings are generally open and available to the public, meaning that whatever private affairs that are discussed in court can come back to haunt you years later.

Divorce mediation is a method that many couples utilize when seeking a divorce or legal separation. It is a largely out-of-court process, meaning that the parties' personal information is kept between themselves and their lawyers. During divorce mediation, divorcing couples try to reach common ground on issues such as property division, alimony, child custody and other important matters.

It is also a less adversarial process, and can save time, money and emotional stress, especially when compared to most highly adversarial divorces that must be litigated in the courtroom. Perhaps most importantly, the client is in control of the proceedings. In the mediation process, the client has the final word as to whether to go forward with a divorce agreement, not the court. Therefore, it is more likely that a settlement reached through mediation will be acceptable to both parties, rather than a court decision issued by a judge.

Source: The Washington Post "Judge releases Romney testimony from Staples founder's divorce trial," Carol D. Leonnig, Oct. 25, 2012

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