How Confidentiality Is Handled in Divorce Proceedings

Sometimes, relationships don’t work. Sometimes fighting for it may be futile, and it would be best to separate ways. Although the process can be tedious and emotionally tense, the result may be what the involved parties need. It can make you, hopefully, happier and at more peace with yourself.

Whatever the reason, divorce is never easy. Sometimes, it gets messy and ugly for everyone involved. The process towards your freedom is an emotional rollercoaster ride fraught with fear, anger, and disappointment.

However, if there is another problem that divorced couples will have to face once their divorce is final, it’s confidentiality. Court proceedings, including divorce, and decisions are public matters. The filings that you have made are public records. Although divorce records cannot be requested online, someone who has a mind to it may request a copy of your divorce filings in the clerk’s office where you got divorced. This complies with the Federal Freedom of Public Records.

Sealing of Divorce Records

Of course, you may request the court to seal your divorce records. Sensitive information will not be made public. The court can even seal the entire divorce records.

These records can include pieces of evidence such as recordings, both audio and video, emails, text messages, chat messages, and many more. It can be embarrassing, especially if there are allegations of affairs.

There are many reasons why a divorcee would want to keep his or her divorce files private and confidential. The most common reasons include protecting their children, secure sensitive information such as bank account and social security numbers, and protecting proprietary information.

To request the court to seal your divorce records, you must show that there would be grave damages should the public access your records. Your reasons should heavily outweigh the right of the public to have access to court records.

The decision to seal or not seal your divorce records is still up to the judge.

The First Amendment and Court Proceedings

While you can request to seal your records, you cannot stop a person from attending a court hearing. Under the First Amendment, the public and even the press have the right to attend a court hearing in the U.S. Having a stranger watch and listen as your marriage crumbles furthermore can be just humiliating and emotionally taxing for some.

There is another way to keep your divorce private and more amicable, and that’s through judicial arbitration and mediation services. Filing for divorce is emotionally and psychologically stressful enough. Having to stand in court and give your statements can be traumatic for many.

Confidentiality in a Divorce Through Mediation

Mediation services are a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It allows divorcing couples to resolve their issues amicably and outside of the courts. With the help of a neutral third party or a mediator, the couple discusses and work to resolve their marital issues.

Since the divorce is resolved outside of the courts, there are no public records of what has been discussed and agreed upon. Your sensitive and confidential information is safe from the scrutiny of the public. Should you decide to go to court for whatever reason, whatever you have said or shared during the mediation sessions cannot be used against you. It is just between you, your soon-to-be ex-spouse, and your mediator.

Of course, you can still enlist the help of a lawyer during the process. But with mediation, you and your spouse can work on an end that will be beneficial for both of you and your children. It takes less time and is not as expensive as a court proceeding.

Mediation, however, is not for everyone. It is not for couples with issues of home abuse and physical violence. Both parties must be willing to compromise and negotiate to settle matters fairly and amicably for it to work.

Why Divorce Records Should Be Available for Public Inquiry

Like marriage records, divorce records can have legal implications on matters such as taxation, insurance, and parenting rights. Of course, if you wish to marry someone who had a previous spouse, you may want to check if he or she is really divorced before you tie the knot.

If you have requested to have your divorce records sealed, a certified statement of your divorce will only include your name and your spouse’s name, the date of the divorce, and the county where the divorce was granted.

Some people choose to mediate to have some control over the outcome of their divorce. While your marriage life is falling apart and there is nothing you can do about it, you can still have a say on how you will end it and start anew.

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