Do the Court Records from a Divorce Become Public Record?

The federal courts of the United States as well as all of the state courts are open to public record. The First Amendment in the U.S. Bill of Rights as well as the various state constitutions give the public the right to read court records.

However individual states have addressed this issue by state legislation or court rule. Now, in certain states, a judge can conduct a balancing test to protect both the public's right to access court records[1] as well as the rights of individuals' privacy concerns.

What this process does is seals only those divorce documents containing truly private or proprietary information.

The following factors are considered by a judge when sealing documents in matrimonial actions

  • whether a lawsuit has significant public significance
  • whether asserted harm comes to the litigants should there be no disclosure
  • whether there are alternate methods of providing the same privacy
  • whether the public interest is served by sealing the documents
  • whether the documents contain information that could expose private financial issues and cause harm to the parties
  • whether the information in the court file adversely affects the interests of children

When elements exist, motions can be made to seal certain documents during the proceedings.

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