Most divorcing couples prefer to keep their personal affairs private. Divorce is rarely pretty, and leaked details of your relationship, parenting, and financial issues can impact every aspect of your life—from job performance to family and community relationships.
Unfortunately, most states make divorce records public. While New York's Domestic Relations statute does more to protect family court confidentiality than most states, the names of the divorcing parties are still made public unless a motion is granted.
There are certain steps you can take to protect your privacy. In this post, we will explore some important strategies and tips on how to keep your divorce records confidential, ensuring your sensitive information remains secure.
Research Your Jurisdiction
The first step in keeping your divorce records private is understanding your jurisdiction's laws and regulations. Different states and countries have varying rules regarding the public accessibility of divorce records. Some jurisdictions make divorce records readily available to the public, while others require special permission or a legitimate reason to access them. Research the laws in your area to determine what level of privacy you can expect.
Sealing Court Records
In New York, divorce records are automatically sealed and only released to certain individuals or by court order. In most other states, you will need to take action to seal divorce records, typically by filing a motion with the court. In confidential divorce, sealed court records are no longer available for public review, thus safeguarding your personal information.
The criteria for sealing records varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Generally, you will need to present a compelling reason to the court. These reasons could include sensitive issues like child custody disputes, allegations of abuse, or financial matters. Not all jurisdictions allow confidential divorces, so consult with an attorney to see if this option is available in your area.
Confidential Settlement Agreements
Another approach to maintaining privacy is through the use of confidential settlement agreements. In some divorce cases, parties settle outside of court. By incorporating a clause in the settlement agreement that restricts the disclosure of its terms, you can effectively prevent public access to these records. It is crucial to consult with a skilled attorney to draft a comprehensive agreement that protects your interests while safeguarding your privacy.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Another way to keep your divorce records private is to avoid litigation altogether. Traditional divorces often involve courtroom battles and public hearings, which can increase the likelihood of exposing your personal information. Alternative dispute resolution approaches like mediation or collaborative divorce allow for a more private and confidential resolution. These processes involve confidential negotiations and discussions, ensuring that sensitive information does not become part of the public record.
Alternative dispute resolution has limitations, including a lack of professional legal guidance, little judicial oversight, and no appeals or formal rules, so consider these. Still, with the assistance of a neutral mediator or collaboratively trained attorneys, you can work towards a fair resolution while maintaining the utmost privacy throughout the process.
Sometimes, you may have the option to file for divorce anonymously. For example, this is typically available when safety concerns are present, such as in cases involving domestic violence or high-profile individuals. Filing anonymously can shield your identity and personal details from public scrutiny. However, be aware that anonymity may not be granted in every jurisdiction, so consulting with an attorney specializing in family law is essential to determine the feasibility of this option.
Restricting Access to Court Proceedings
In addition to sealing divorce records, you can also work towards restricting access to court proceedings. This means limiting who can attend and view the proceedings, effectively reducing the chances of your personal information reaching the public. Judges may grant such requests if you can demonstrate valid reasons for the need to restrict access, such as personal safety concerns or sensitive matters' privacy.
In addition to the legal strategies mentioned above, there are practical steps you can take to ensure your privacy during a divorce. Be mindful of what you share on social media throughout the divorce process. Avoid posting sensitive details or venting about the divorce on public platforms. Instead, confide in trusted friends and family privately for support. By being cautious about what you share online, you reduce the risk of your personal information being accessed by unauthorized individuals.
Lastly, consider taking steps to protect your personal information in general. Safeguard your financial records, medical records, and other sensitive documents. Shred any unnecessary paperwork containing personal information instead of throwing it in the trash. If you have concerns about the security of your personal information, consult with a privacy professional to ensure you take all necessary precautions.
While it can be challenging to keep your divorce records private, there are steps you can take to protect your information. Remember, seeking a knowledgeable attorney's guidance is crucial in effectively implementing these measures. By taking these steps, you can focus on the emotional healing process without the added concern of exposing your personal information to the public.