Can My Divorce Records Be Sealed to Protect My Privacy?
Going through a divorce is a challenging experience, particularly when it involves sensitive personal information you wish to keep private. You may be wondering if other people have the right to read your court records and find out all about your divorce “behind your back.”
Are divorce records public?
Much of the information in divorce filings is considered public. Thus, your not-so-private information could easily be obtained by an interested party. This includes divorce proceeding records, financial information and disclosures, and other documents that were filed as part of the divorce process.
It comes as no surprise, then, that a person going through a divorce would have privacy concerns. They want to prevent others from accessing potentially sensitive information about their lives.
One way to keep private information out of the public eye is to ask the court to place a gag order on the matter. This prevents anyone from talking about or otherwise disclosing details of the divorce to outsiders.
Financial disclosures are often of particular concern when it comes to privacy. In accordance with the law, certain financial disclosures must be made during a divorce proceeding for the sake of property division and other matters. If you’re concerned about other people accessing your financial information, you could also request that it be kept private.
If you and your spouse both want to keep your divorce records private, you can file a joint motion with the court. The judge will review your reasons and, if they're convinced it’s in everyone's best interest to seal your divorce records, they may do so.
How can I keep my divorce records private?
It’s possible for someone going through divorce to have their court records “sealed” to protect their privacy. When divorce records are sealed, they are unavailable to the public. This is especially relevant in sensitive divorce situations that involve child custody and financial matters.
If you’ve decided you want your divorce records sealed, how do you go about sealing them? Here are some options.
Petition the court
To seal your divorce records, consider petitioning the court directly. You may be asked to provide compelling evidence as to why your records should be sealed. The court expects a valid reason for your request. For example, the court may view your fear of retaliation or harassment based on a public divorce record as a valid concern.
In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate the confidentiality of certain information with your soon-to-be-ex or their legal representation. For example, you may be able to reach a deal that limits the details your spouse can share during court proceedings.
Sealed after submission
You might be able to have relevant documents (like your financial disclosures) sealed after they have been submitted. To do this, you would submit a motion or file an official request with the court clerk’s office.
If your marriage involves minor children, check your local court rules. Most courts automatically seal documents related to minor children.
Alternatives to litigation
An alternative to hiring a pricey divorce attorney and going through litigation is mediation. This can be a useful tool for keeping sensitive information off the public record. Through mediation, spouses work with a neutral third party to negotiate the terms of their separation and resolve disputes. Often, mediation is a private process that requires no court involvement.
In addition to mediation, other options may help safeguard your privacy in the divorce process. For example, a couple may wish to consider collaborative law or other forms of alternative dispute resolution that allow them to negotiate directly, without involving lawyers or courts.
For privacy’s sake, some couples choose to separate rather than pursue a formal divorce. This is another way to keep certain details out of the public eye.
Ultimately, whether someone chooses litigation or an alternative method of resolving their divorce depends on many factors, including individual preferences and concerns about privacy. Consider your options carefully, and choose the method that best meets your needs and preferences.
Do you have questions about sealing divorce records or the public’s right to your personal information? If you need guidance, call us. Click here to schedule your free 15-minute informational call with a Hello Divorce account coordinator. We can help you understand your options and point you in the direction that best meets your needs.
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