When you’re going through a divorce, the last thing you want is for all your dirty laundry to be on display to the public. Unfortunately, the laws of our state make court records open and available to anyone interested in accessing them.
The legal paperwork for your divorce is made a matter of public record by default. That means any person could go to the courthouse and request a copy of your divorce petition or decree from the court clerk without your knowledge or consent.
Of course, this isn’t likely to happen to most divorcing couples, but you may have special concerns that warrant special protections.
So, can you have an exception made for you? Yes… in some cases. However, it’s not easy.
Below we’re going to cover several different reasons why it may be worth it to you to have your Florida divorce records sealed.
Why You Might Want Your Divorce Records in Florida Sealed
Most of us are not too worried about a random person looking up our divorce decrees. After all, the media usually only searches for the details of celebrity breakups. However, some couples may seek to protect their divorce records for legitimate reasons.
These reasons may include the following:
- If one or both of you are high profile members of your community
- If one or both of you are political figures
- If domestic violence was present in the marriage
- If child abuse was part of the family story
- If one or both spouses are mentally ill
- If one or both spouses have addictions
- If the public exposure could financially harm one or both spouses
Of course, just because you think you have a valid reason does not mean that the court will agree.
Our state and federal court systems favor open records under the provisions of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That’s why it may be difficult to get your divorce records sealed.
Even if you feel you have a legitimate reason for sealing the records, you will need a knowledgeable Florida divorce attorney to convince the judge to agree with you. Granting provisions for sealed records is up to the judge’s discretion, and judges normally side with the public’s right to information unless you have a compelling justification that your records need to be sealed.
What Divorce Information Is Likely to Be Sealed?
The court will likely be willing to keep this information from public view for legitimate reasons:
- Financial records
- Social security numbers
- Bank accounts
- Protected business information
- Identities of domestic violence victims
- Children’s names (referred to only with initials)
- Children’s birth dates
The Process of Sealing Florida Divorce Records
To begin the process of requesting that your records be sealed, your attorney will need to file a motion and affidavit with the court. You will need to show good cause that damage could occur to your relationships, reputation, finances, or career unless the records are removed from public view.
Your chances of getting your records sealed improves with specificity. For example, if you are a well-known community figure and you feel that your business may suffer if the public knows the financial details of your divorce, you can request that only the financial records be sealed. Another example is requesting that only the parts of the divorce decree that apply to your children be sealed. The judge may agree that you have legitimate reasons to seal part of your record.
The judge will look at factors like these to weigh the privacy of your case against the policy of open records:
- If the divorce has public significance
- If any harm may occur to the divorcing couple upon disclosure
- If any other methods exist for protecting the spouses
- The degree to which public interest will be served with exposure
- If the legal documents contain sensitive or proprietary financial information
- If the children’s welfare may be harmed with exposure
- If the inclusion of social security numbers, drivers license numbers, or health care information presents a significant risk of identity theft
Ready to get started on sealing your records? Call an experienced divorce attorney to get the help you need. Even though it’s not easy, it’s not beyond the scope of possibility. A Florida family lawyer with a proven track record handling situations like yours will help you form the most likely case for the judge’s approval.
Schedule a free initial consultation today to discuss the details of your case. You’ll feel greater peace of mind knowing that a qualified professional is working to help keep your personal matters private.