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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Conyers' High-Profile Yet Private Divorce

Last week, it caught our eye that Monica Conyers filed for divorce in the Wayne County Family Court. She is the wife of long-serving Congressman John Conyers, from Michigan's 13th District in Detroit.

Ms. Conyers went to federal prison several years ago on a bribery conviction that arose during her brief stint as President of the Detroit City Council; she was released from the joint in March 2013. Her tenure on the Detroit City Council was during the Kwame Kilpatrick sexting scandal.

Because Monica did time in a federal prison, and because John is the dean among Congressman in Washington D.C., having served his district since 1965, we figured a divorce would one day occur. According to the divorce lawyers, however, the couple is amicable and John would like to avoid the proceeding altogether if he could.

This divorce proceeding will be "high-profile" in name only; simply because of the status of the parties involved in the family court proceeding. There will be no high-powered tell-all in the divorce divorce judgment that concludes this matter at some point in 2016. This is because both parties, married since 1990, will seek to keep their business private.

Although the litigation process is a public one, there are ways that the substance of a divorce proceeding can remain private. Currently, there is an active debate among the family court bench and bar as to whether all family court records should be sealed.

When a high-asset or high-profile couple files for divorce, the lawyers use a private settlement agreement to keep the proceedings out of the public eye. While a judgment of divorce is required, and that document is public, the settlement agreement is not filed with the court and is kept private, functioning much like a contract.

If enforcement issues arise, the family court judge consults the terms of the settlement agreement, but the public does not get a look. This is usually the best manner to proceed.

The really sad part of this story is, just as the Congressman nears retirement at age 86, his wife is suing for divorce, apparently determined to end their marriage. Although Conyers filed a counter claim for divorce -standard procedure- he would like to remain married.

When one party to a marriage insists on getting divorced, it will occur regardless whether the other party resists.

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