North Carolina's Charlotte Observer has fought for three years to get records from France's divorce to be released publicly. Although a judge ruled that the files should be made public, France is doing everything he legally can to keep them private.
The 2008 agreement with his ex-wife provided her with $9 million in assets and about $40,000 in alimony and child support for their young twins. But he claims she breached that agreement when she showed it to a man with whom she was romantically involved and made disparaging comments about France to family and friends. He therefore went back to court to have the agreement nullified. In turn, his wife filed a list of her own grievances, charging that France hadn't been making the support payments.
France's attorneys were able to seal all court hearings and records, even though they're supposed to be public. But several months later a judge who inherited the case ruled that they should be public. She also ruled they should be opened for access to the Charlotte Observer and other media. France's attorneys appealed, and the battle has continued in the three years since then. The case is now before the state Court of Appeals awaiting initial hearings. If that court rules in favor of the newspaper, France could take it up the chain once more to the state Supreme Court.
France's attorneys argue that the concerns of protecting the couple's children and their personal and financial affairs supersede the public's right to know about them. While there is some precedent for that argument, it's mainly used to shield only certain portions of proceedings, and usually related to violence, abuse or the psychological well-being of children.
Why is the Observer so intent on gaining access? Because they might provide details about the way NASCAR and the International Speedway Corp have been managed, one reporter says. Regardless of what the documents reveal, an attorney for the paper feels the courts will continue to rule in its favor.
Source: ESPN, "NASCAR CEO fights to keep divorce private," Jan. 17, 2012