In Florida, court records are automatically public. That means legal filings related to your divorce are accessible by anyone who visits the courthouse and looks up your file. While most divorcing couples won’t give this much thought, for others, the idea of their private problems suddenly becoming public is worrisome. If you would like to seal your divorce records in Florida, we can help.
Fortunately, there are circumstances in which divorcing couples can have their court records sealed. Doing so is not easy, but a knowledgeable Florida divorce attorney can assist you. At Orlando Family Team, we advise clients on all types of domestic matters and help protect their rights in court. We’re ready to help you today.
Why Would You Want To Seal Your Divorce Records?
Anyone can visit the courthouse and view divorce filings without the knowledge or consent of either party. That’s because these records are by default public. This is nothing new, and most people don’t even think about it. Divorces happen every day, and besides, what are the odds that some stranger will take the time to go check out your dirty laundry?
While not everyone is concerned about their records being made public, some individuals could be harmed by it. These are a few of the reasons you might want the court to seal those filings:
- Either of the spouses is a high profile member of the community
- Either of the spouses is a political figure
- There were incidents of domestic violence during the marriage
- There were incidents of child abuse during the marriage
- There were allegations of mental illness made against either spouse
- Either of the spouses is struggling with a drug, alcohol, or other addiction
- Public exposure could financially harm one or both of the spouses
Although these are matters you would not want to be public, just because they apply to your divorce doesn’t mean your filings will automatically be sealed. Court records are government records, and the public generally has a right to know what their government is doing. For example, there’s a strong interest in knowing how a local family court judge decides contentious child custody matters. That means, before sealing a record, the judge has to be convinced that the reason for doing so outweighs the public’s right to know what’s in it.
Could A Court Partially Seal My Divorce Records?
A judge who is not willing to seal your entire divorce record may agree to hide parts of it from public view. This will likely be in the form of a redaction, which is editing out or censoring portions of the text. Some of the information that may be redacted includes:
- Social Security numbers
- Bank account numbers and related information
- Financial records
- Sensitive business information, such as trade secrets
- The identities of domestic violence victims
- Children’s full names (they may be referred to only with their initials)
- Children’s birth dates
What Is The Process To Seal Divorce Records?
Whether the court will decide to seal your divorce records, there’s a process to formally request a judge to do so. It starts with filing a motion and affidavit. These documents will need to present a strong argument for why disclosing the records in question would cause damage to either party’s finances, reputation, relationships, or career.
To increase the likelihood of having the record sealed, your request should be specific. For example, you may want information about your minor children protected, and therefore ask that only their initials be used. If either party has been a victim of domestic violence, they may ask for the same. You could be a prominent business owner who could be financially harmed if divorce details are revealed to the public. In a case like that, you may ask that certain financial records be sealed.
A judge has to consider several factors in weighing your request with the public’s right to know. Remember, you have to overcome a general preference for keeping court filings accessible to the public. Those factors include the following:
- Whether the divorce has public significance
- Whether disclosing details about the divorce would harm the couple
- Whether any other methods exist that could protect the parties
- To what degree the public interest would be served if the records are made public
- Whether proprietary or sensitive financial information is contained in the divorce records
- Whether the safety or welfare of the couple’s children would be harmed with exposure
- Whether the inclusion of driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers or healthcare information presents a significant risk of identity theft
Are There Other Ways To Protect My Information?
The disclosure of sensitive personal information, such as Social Security numbers, is a concern that many couples have when they file for divorce. In Florida, some judges are willing to waive the requirement that certain records that contain this information be filed. For example, judges sometimes don’t require couples to file financial affidavits. In an event like that, the document never enters the public record, to begin with.
As mentioned above, judges have to determine if there are other ways to protect the legitimate interests of divorcing couples while weighing the public’s right to access court records. It’s important to discuss any privacy or other worries with a knowledgeable Florida divorce attorney.
Talk To Orlando Family Team About Your Divorce Today
Our attorneys understand that representing family law clients requires more than just knowing Florida’s domestic laws. When you retain the Orlando Family Team, you have an ally on your side that will work to protect all of your interests, including concerns you have about your and your family’s privacy. We will explore creative ways to secure your information and work hard to have sensitive records sealed.
It starts by giving us a call to schedule your confidential consultation. Reach out to us today.