Among the most important values in American society are freedom of information and open access to government. In order to further these principles, national and state laws have made court records available to the public. However, when you divorce, you may have a mixed feeling that strangers may be able to access your records — who wants the details of a divorce to be made public? Here’s what you need to know about when American divorce records can be made public, and what you can do to protect your privacy.
What is the “Divorce Record”?
The term “divorce record” is used to describe many divorce-related documents. So if you want to protect your privacy as much as possible, it is important to know what information is on each type of divorce record.
Documents commonly referred to as “divorce records” include:
Divorce certificates. A divorce certificate is an official document issued by an office that keeps important records in your region (such as the health department of the important records office). Divorce certificates contain less information about divorce, such as the names of the parties involved, the address of the court where the divorce was finalized, and the date on which the divorce was finalized. People often need a copy of the divorce certificate to find out if someone has divorced or to show proof of divorce.
Divorce orders. A divorce decree is a court order ending a divorce. The contents of a divorce decree can vary greatly: Some decisions contain detailed information about divorce conditions, such as the division of property, marital support (alimony), custody of a child, and child support. Some may provide little details about the victims and simply refer to a text that corrects the terms of the marriage.
Divorce court records. The court record itself — a collection of all documents filed in a divorce case, as well as the transcripts and records of court cases — is the most detailed type of divorce record. Divorce court records may contain a wealth of information about divorce partners, including information about their finances, their children, reasons for divorce, and personal health.
Are Divorce Records Available to the Public?
Generally, divorce records are considered part of the public record. Some states have no access limits — anyone who wants to know can request a copy of any divorce record. Most states, however, limit access to divorce records because of the personal or sensitive information they usually contain. Some types of divorce records are more accessible than others.