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Friday, June 13, 2008

Secret Divorce Filings, And the Former Law Partners Who Grant Them

In early February, (Speaker of the House) Glenn and Susan Richardson walked into the Paulding County Courthouse, filed for an uncontested divorce and got their case sealed from public view.

The handling of the divorce raised questions as to whether the speaker of the state House received preferential treatment from Judge James Osborne, who was not initially assigned the case but signed the order placing it under wraps. The judge, once the speaker's law partner, is now weighing a request to unseal the divorce file. He said Thursday that he has treated the Richardsons' request like any other.

he case is being closely watched, particularly by divorce lawyers across the state. They say if the speaker succeeds in keeping the file sealed, it could lead to an avalanche of requests to close the files of other broken marriages.

"If they carve out an exception for him, I guarantee you we'll all be trying to seal divorce records," said John Lyndon, a family law attorney in Athens. "There's no doubt about it."

Lyndon has had mixed results sealing divorce records and said judges more often than not refuse to do it. When successful, he said he gives clients this caveat: "If challenged, I wouldn't expect it to hold up."

More here.

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