In the Internet age, we’ve all gotten used to less privacy. But one thing few of us are comfortable with is the idea of our divorce being public. Unfortunately, divorce filings are generally considered a matter of public record. Additionally, divorce hearings are open to the public, which means just about anyone off the street can come in and observe.
If you’re concerned about your family’s privacy when going through such a difficult, sensitive time, talk to a family law attorney, because there may be options available to make the process less public.
For example, in some instances, divorce records can be filed under seal to keep them from becoming public records that are accessible to the general public. A judge has the discretion to order either portions of records or entire documents to be filed under seal.
The judge will have to balance the privacy interests of the parties in the case with the general public policy that favors court documents remaining public. Factors that a judge will consider in deciding whether to allow records to be filed under seal include the need to protect the identity of a child, the need to protect physical and sexual abuse victims and the need to protect sensitive business information.
Judges will also consider placing records under seal if there are issues of potential libel (publication of false information with the malicious intent to damage someone’s reputation) should records be accessed by members of the public. But information that’s simply embarrassing or something that you’d just rather not allow the public to see probably won’t be enough to persuade the court to place a record under seal.
While convincing a court to place divorce records under seal may seem like a high bar to clear, courts will be willing to do so in the right circumstances, so it’s worth talking to a divorce lawyer to discuss your own particular situation.