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NASCAR head's court fight highlights public side of Ohio divorce

Despite what many Columbus spouses believe, a marital breakup is not entirely a personal matter. Divorces are public records just like births, marriages and deaths.

A high-asset divorce can gain local attention or the focus of the whole world. The only way to seal a divorce record is for one or both spouses to convince a judge there's a "compelling" reason for privacy.

Contentious events involved in the latest divorce of the wealthy head of NASCAR were under seal for several years. Under media pressure last spring, a judge reopened the Megan and Brian France divorce record.

Brian France married and divorced Megan France twice. The latest separation in 2008 turned litigious. The couple's separation agreement stipulated Megan France was to receive $9 million, equivalent to Brian France's reported NASCAR salary in 2004. In addition, Brian France agreed to pay $10,000 in monthly child support and $32,000 in monthly alimony.

Megan France petitioned the court, claiming her husband refused to make timely child support payments. The complaint said Brian France also failed to pay Megan France $3 million as part of an installment agreement in the separation. Brian France countered with an accusation that his wife was the one to violate the contract.

Unsealed records showed an unpleasant side to the remarried NASCAR chief. Megan France accused her husband of tracking her with private detectives and threatening to ruin her financially.

After years of court battles, the former couple last month agreed to drop all claims and reach a settlement. The marital property settlement is not a public record and contains a confidentiality agreement that forbids the Frances from talking about the contents.

A sealed divorce record may be granted to protect identities of children or abuse victims, and financial or business information. An Ohio judge will weigh the potential damage to the parties involved against the public's right to know.

Source: idahostatesman.com, "Brian and Megan France settle lengthy court fight" Ames Alexander, Oct. 08, 2013

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