Like many court documents, divorce records are normally public; this means that anyone can access records of divorce proceedings. Though many divorcing couples do not have a problem with their information being public, other couples have legitimate concerns about sensitive information.
Accusations and Sensitive Information in Divorce Records
The biggest worry revolves around the fact that every accusation, whether true or not, is listed in the divorce record. If a spouse claims another committed adultery, used drugs or drank alcohol excessively, the information will be included in court documents. The court does not take time to indicate which allegations are true or false.
Another issue with a public divorce record is that it may contain sensitive information. For example, a sexually abused child deserves to be protected. Most divorce records will not have information of minors in that situation, but mistakes can happen. Financial data could also be exposed unnecessarily or in a negative manner, leaving the person vulnerable.
Who Would Look at Divorce Records?
Employers could easily gain access to divorce records to gain information about a current or prospective employee. Like a criminal record, a divorce record provides implications.
Reporters may also want to investigate divorce records, particularly if one of the divorcing parties is notable. A local community member who is running for a government position or a high-profile personality could fit into this category.
A potential client or an executive board member might have reason to look into divorce records. Divorce records are often used to judge the couple getting divorced. Therefore, divorce records can hold power over the couple.
Simply bypassing courts until the end of the divorce process is one way to avoid information being put into divorce records. However, this involves both parties working with their attorneys very early in the process to avoid filing anything in the courts. Not all couples can civilly work together, particularly if only one spouse is worried about their divorce record becoming public.
Sealing Divorce Records
A better solution is to get the divorce record entirely or partially sealed, even though this is not a simple process. Only a judge can seal a divorce record, and judges will not seal records without a very good reason. Judges are reluctant to seal whole divorce records and may be more inclined to eliminate certain parts of the document. In most cases, information will be protected. Divorcing parties and others who will be named in the documents, like children, will have their information safeguarded. Sometimes, sensitive information like financial accounts and social security numbers need to be redacted.