Regardless of your politics, or your opinion of Michael Moore, the controversial documentary film producer who has won critical acclaim for his movies Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine, and Fahrenheit 9/11, we have all learned a lot from him over the years. Not only have we learned something about capitalism, corporate America, and gun violence from his documentaries, but we have also learned that it’s still possible in this country for a working class kid from Flint, Michigan, to become a very successful, internationally renowned, film maker. Ironically, the latest thing we have learned from Michael Moore is something he probably never intended to teach: I call it the lesson of the Michael Moore Divorce.
In 2013, Michael Moore filed for divorce from Kathy Glynn, his wife of 22 years. Like so many celebrities, the divorce filing attracted a lot of publicity. Everyone, it seemed, was interested, not only in the details surrounding the demise of Michael Moore’s marriage, but, more importantly, in the details of his financial life.
As celebrity divorces go, the Michael Moore divorce did not disappoint us.
By spending less than five minutes on a Google search, you can now learn that Michael Moore has a marital estate worth an estimated $50 million. He and his wife own 9 properties, including a Manhattan condo that was once three apartments, and a $2 million, 10,000 square foot mansion on Torch Lake that he and his wife have been bickering over for years.
You can also learn that Michael and his wife began dating in 1982, and that they both loved movies and Bruce Springsteen. Later, as their marriage was falling apart, Michael complained that the expansion of their Torch Lake home cost five times more than his wife said it would, so in 2011 Michael took over the family finances.
That’s not all. From the court file, which includes 731 trial exhibits, you can learn that Moore accused his wife of hiring a private investigator years ago to spy on him, and that she was recently arrested on a drunk driving charge. Her court date is July 29.
I’m sorry, but, do we really need to know all that? I mean, seriously!
Divorce is difficult and emotional and ugly enough as it is. Why make it worse by airing all of your dirty laundry in public?
You may think that none of this will ever apply to you. After all, you’re not a celebrity. But everyone’s court records are public documents. That means that, while the details of your divorce may not make it onto the nightly news, they could provide information to a future employer that you would rather have kept private. Your kids, your dating partners, and anyone who wants to get a little more information about you, can help themselves to whatever they can find in your divorce court file. What’s more, in today’s digital age, it is entirely possible, if not probable, that your divorce records will be accessible to the public forever.
So, how do you keep your divorce to yourself? Easy: stay out of court!
Of course, to get divorced you have to file at least some basic court documents. But there is a big difference between filing some standard, boiler-plate documents that contain no more than simple, necessary information about you, your spouse, and your kids, and filing reams of detailed discovery requests, scathing motions, and mud-slinging trial exhibits showcasing the most intimate details of your married life!
The other thing that you may not realize is that, even if you ultimately settle your case out of court, once you file something in court, it’s there forever. That means that everything that you or your spouse filed before you settled is still part of the court file. Michael Moore just settled his divorce case, and yet all of the details of his divorce are still public record.
So, what can we learn from the Michael Moore divorce? Not only should you try to settle your divorce case out of court, but you should also try to stay out of court from the very beginning. Talk to your spouse. Use mediation. Use collaborative law. Do the best you can to resolve your differences outside of the court system. Keep the details of your private life private. Later on, you will be glad you did.
Karen Covy, J.D., is a Divorce Lawyer, Divorce Mediator, Divorce Educator, and a Collaborative Law Professional . She is a frequent expert contributor to Divorce Magazine, and the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially and Legally.