- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Bar Association is pushing for legislation this year that would delay when the public is notified about divorce filings.

Bar association Director Allan Ramsaur told The Tennessean (https://tnne.ws/13OzXSf) the proposal would close what could be a dangerous gap because cases sometimes become public before a responding husband or wife has been notified and served with a protective order.

“Respondents find out that their spouse has filed for divorce before safety plans can be put in place or before restraining orders can be served,” TBA President Jonathan Steen said in a statement. “We think a targeted solution to this problem is that information about the filing of divorce should be delayed until the respondent is served.”

Attorneys say there’s a risk of retribution due to the timing and will ask lawmakers to consider a proposal that would keep initial filings secret.

Ramsaur said the group will propose a law exempting divorce filings from public record “until served or 10 days, whichever occurs first.”

According to the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, there were nearly 30,000 divorces filed in the fiscal year ending in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. Ramsaur says the law requires a protective order with each case, though a more stringent restraining order can be sought if there’s a threat of harm.

He could not recall any specific instances of violence, but says the group is trying to be proactive. He said some newspapers publish new divorce filings the next day.

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government Director Deborah Fisher said the proposed bill could warrant keeping an eye on, though it’s not currently on her radar.

“Any legislation that seeks to change the public records law or the open meetings act, we would want to track and look at and see how it would impact the public’s right to know,” she said.

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Information from: The Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com

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