Divorce Records and Privacy

Court proceedings are generally not sealed. So anyone can access your divorce proceedings including the documents you have filed and the allegations your spouse made against you. So unless the court seals your divorce records, your divorce records are a matter of public record.

There are certain exceptions to the rule that all court proceedings are a matter of public records. In cases of child and sexual abuse, the identification of the victim is generally sealed. In many states, you can either on your own or together with your ex-spouse, can ask the court to seal your divorce records to prevent it from being accessed by others.

Once your divorce records are sealed, all information contained in the records will no longer be accessible. The court can seal the entire records or parts of the records.

Sealing Divorce Records

The court will not seal your divorce records on its own. You or your spouse either together or individually must file an application to the court for sealing your divorce records. After reviewing your application the judge will decide whether or not to seal your divorce records. You must prove that the damage caused to you if the records are not sealed would far outweigh the presumption that court records are public documents.

Reasons for Sealing

Here are some of the common reasons why parties request sealing of divorce records:

• Protect the identity of the children
• Protect the identity of victims of domestic abuse
• Protect sensitive information like social security number, bank account details
• Protect business information

Another common reason why individuals seek to have their divorce records sealed is to prevent the disclosure of false allegations which can damage the individual’s reputation. If the information contained in the records is only embarrassing but does not cause any harm, the court will not seal the records. Transparency in court proceedings is a part of public policy. People have the right to know what happens in the courts. Another reason for the court records being considered as public records is that the public should be in a position to know why the court passed the order. So if you are seeking to have your divorce records sealed, you must show that the damage you will suffer far outweighs the need to keep your divorce records public.

Narrowly Tailored Requests to Seal Divorce Records

Besides showing damage, your request should be narrowly tailed, i.e. it must seek to seal only the information that will cause the damage. Generally, if your application is allowed, the court will not seal the entire records but only those parts which are likely to cause the damage or is required to protect the privacy of the parties.

Your application stands a greater chance of being allowed if it is narrowly tailored than a general request to seal the entire record. Generally requesting the court to seal specific information will more successful.

Once the court issues an order for sealing, you should check with the department if the record has been actually sealed.

Consult with an experienced divorce lawyer to know your options about sealing your divorce records and how to protect your privacy.

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