As we reported on October 15, a Democratic activist filed a motion to unseal the 2001 divorce records of Austin Scott, a Republican who was campaigning to unseat four-term incumbent U.S. Representative Jim Marshall of Georgia’s eighth district in south-central Georgia. Tift County judge Bill Reinhardt delayed a hearing on whether to unseal the records until after the election. Scott won the election.
Like all court records, divorce records are generally available to the public. As the Georgia Supreme Court explained in a 1988 case, “public access protects litigants both present and future, because justice faces its gravest threat when courts dispense it secretly.”
This week, the records were opened to the public, and it appears that Austin Scott’s main concern about making them public was a desire for privacy for himself and his ex-wife Leigh Jordan.
Divorce records reveal mutual accusations that were ultimately set aside
When the petition to open the divorce records to the public was submitted, Scott largely refused to comment on the contents of the file, saying that divorce is a “personal matter.” As is true in many divorces, the hundreds of pages of documents released this week reveal a number of accusations each party made against the other.
The file includes not just the couple’s initial divorce filing and final decree but also sworn affidavits by friends, relatives and business associates.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jordan accused Scott at the time of erratic behavior including alcohol abuse and the use of pornography. For his part, Scott accused Jordan of abusing alcohol and prescription drugs. Some of those accusations were supported by affidavits.
In the end, however, it appears that the judge in the 2001 divorce did not think any of the alleged substance abuse was serious enough to warrant limiting either party’s child custody rights. The couple was granted shared custody of their son.
- Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Rep. Scott, ex-wife alleged substance abuse,” February 15, 2011
- Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Judge delays hearing on Austin Scott divorce papers until December,” Jim Galloway, October 26, 2010