Sealing Your Divorce Records
For many couples, one of the worst parts of going through a divorce is knowing that the records can and will be made public. This is because all legal paperwork related to divorces in Florida is automatically made a matter of public record, which means that anyone can go to the local courthouse and request a copy of someone else’s divorce petition or decree. While this is admittedly unlikely to occur for most couples, it can be a legitimate concern for certain individuals. Fortunately, there are some situations in which a person can get their divorce records sealed, so if you are going through a divorce and are concerned that your records will be made public, you should schedule a consultation with a divorce attorney who can answer your questions.
When can My Divorce Records be Sealed?
Divorce records becoming public is usually only a concern for high profile individuals, such as celebrities. However, there are a number of other reasons why a person might seek to protect his or her divorce records from the public, including when:
- One or both parties are high profile members of the community;
- One or both parties are political figures;
- There were incidents of domestic violence or child abuse during the marriage;
- Allegations of mental illness were made against one spouse;
- One or more spouse is struggling with an addiction; or
- Public exposure could financially harm the parties involved.
Even in these cases, courts are not always willing to seal a divorce record unless they deem the reason compelling enough to override the public’s right to access the information.
The Process of Sealing Your Divorce Records
Couples who believe that their circumstances qualify for record sealing must comply with specific procedural steps. For instance, petitioning the court requires the filing of a motion and an affidavit with the court, in which the parties attempt to demonstrate that damage could occur to their reputations, relationships, finances, or career if the records are not sealed. Generally, the more specific the parties are in their request, the better chance they will have of getting their petition approved. If, for example, a well-known business owner believes that his or her business will suffer if the public is made aware of his or her financial details, then that individual may be best served by requesting only that the financial records related to the divorce be sealed. Alternatively, the petitioning party may only want the parts of the decree sealed that apply to their minor children or that reveal the identity of a domestic violence victim.
Before making a decision, courts will assess a number of factors in weighing the privacy of a case against the general policy of open records, including:
- Whether the divorce has some sort of public significance;
- Whether disclosing the details of the divorce would harm the couple in some way;
- Whether there are any other methods that could be used to protect the parties;
- How much the public interest will be served if the records are made public;
- Whether the divorce documents contain proprietary or sensitive financial information;
- Whether the welfare or safety of a couple’s children would be harmed with exposure; and
- Whether the inclusion of healthcare information, driver’s license numbers, or Social Security Numbers poses a significant risk of identity theft.
To learn more about petitioning the court to seal your own records, please contact our legal team today.
Call Today to get the Legal Representation You Deserve
For more information on sealing your own divorce records, please call experienced divorce attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 today. Our Fort Lauderdale legal team is eager to assist you today.