Throughout the divorce process, parties often disclose sensitive information related to financial matters, marital misconduct and sometimes even criminal allegations.
For some individuals going through the divorce process, keeping these details private is a top priority. Maintaining privacy in California is often not possible as the default filing procedure for divorce records is to make public unless confidentiality is required by law. As public records, anyone from the public can access them for any reason.
Records that are private
In proceedings involving children, certain records, such as recommendations regarding custody or visitation or psychological evaluations of a child are confidential by statute and are only accessible to specified persons. If the law does not require the record to be kept confidential, the record is filed as public unless it is sealed by the court.
Sealing the divorce record
A sealed record is a record that by court order is not open to inspection by the public. Sealing divorce records in California is extremely difficult. A court may order that a record be filed under seal only if an overriding interest exists that overcomes the right of public access to the record. The court will not permit a record to be filed under seal based solely on the agreement or stipulation of the parties. Even if the court orders that a record be sealed, a party, a member of the public, or the court on its own motion may move to unseal the record.
Why the court rarely seals records
States value the freedom of the press which is legally protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. States want their judicial system open so that citizens can hold their neighbors and courts accountable.
Solutions to keeping divorce records private
There are other ways to protect your privacy during a California divorce, including staying out of court and resolving matters through mediation or collaborative practice. Other options worth considering are refraining from sharing information about the divorce on social media and signing a non-disclosure agreement.
If confidentiality and privacy is important to you, then you may talk to an attorney about the methods you might pursue to protect sensitive information.