The recent rap rivalry between Drake and Kendrick Lamar has social media and the music industry buzzing with allegations of family dysfunction, secret children, and “deadbeat” parents. As family law attorneys based in the entertainment and technology hub of California, we know that fame and fortune can turn private matters into fodder for tabloids and internet audiences if not handled with confidentiality and care. We also know that one person’s “diss track” is another person’s painful and complicated reality.

Fortunately, there are several protections the law may offer those who are trying to avoid publicity or embarrassment.

Attorney-Client Privilege

Attorney-Client Privilege is a widely-known pillar of the American justice system. This doctrine is “[a] client’s right to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing confidential communications between the client and the attorney.” Delicate family matters, such as secret children or the more commonplace issues of custody or support disputes, rely heavily on the doctrine of attorney-client privilege. Everyone deserves an attorney who understands and respects their obligation to protect client privacy and the integrity of their client’s case.

Parentage Cases in California

While most family law cases are a matter of public record and easily accessible to the masses, an exception lies with “paternity” or “parentage” cases; these are cases where the paternity of a child is not yet legally determined by virtue of the married status of the parties (presumed parents). These cases are marked confidential pursuant to the California Uniform Parentage Act, and therefore all filings remain only accessible to a limited number of persons, including the parties themselves and their attorneys. While confidentiality may reduce embarrassment and exposure, parentage cases can also present logistical complications and necessitate procedures not seen in other family law matters, such as genetic testing. Often times, determining parentage of a child may not be a matter of genetic relation, but of a multitude of other personal factors and contributions that will be evaluated by the presiding judge. Every client deserves an attorney who is familiar with the ins-and-outs of parentage matters, and who can explain how legally establishing one’s parentage may affect one’s rights or obligations to a child in question.

Filing Under Seal and Protective Orders

Unless confidentiality is required by law, all court records are considered open to the public and can be easily accessed online or by a visit to the court clerk’s office. This can be a source of concern to persons who are litigating messy family issues, especially if that person is high-profile or feels their own interest or that of another person or party may be prejudiced by the public’s access to certain information. In consideration of this fact, there is the option to request that certain records be filed “under seal” (meaning, not available to the public). However, the standard of showing for filing under seal is steep:
Pursuant to the California Rules of Court, Rule 2.550(d), the court may order that a record by filed under seal only if it expressly finds facts that establish:

  1. There exists an overriding interest that overcomes the right of public access to the record;
  2. The overriding interest supports sealing the record;
  3. A substantial probability exists that the overriding interest will be prejudiced if the record is not sealed;
  4. The proposed sealing is narrowly tailored; and
  5. No less restrictive means exist to achieve the overriding interest.

There are also motions for protective order, which, if granted, may restrict the access, disbursement, filing, or other treatment of various confidential documents (such as medical records). Family law cases involve a lot of paper work, and sometimes that paper needs to be handled with care.

Ours is a society “on blast”. It seems that everything we could ever want to know about a person’s situation is just a click or sweep away, and if you are a high-profile individual or any other person concerned about their own security, that can be an inconvenient and stressful reality. You need an attorney who knows the court system, and one who can advocate for your best chances of limiting access to some of the most sensitive information in your life. The attorneys and staff and THE ZHOU LAW GROUP APC are well-versed and ready to handle your case with discretion and sensitivity.