Are Divorce Records Public in the US?
Published October 11, 2022
Though getting divorced has become commonplace in the 21st century, many people still cannot help but find the experience embarrassing. That’s why you may feel conflicted upon hearing that divorce records are accessible to the public in some parts of the world. That means a stranger can find out everything about your divorce, including the particularly personal pieces of information, with you none the wiser.
With that said, are divorce records public in the United States, and should you be worried? Before we answer that question, you must first understand what constitutes “divorce records” in the US.
What Are Divorce Records?
Divorce records is an umbrella term that refers to the collection of documents or forms containing information about a divorce case. It’s important to make a distinction between the different documents that compose a person’s divorce records because each one has different levels of accessibility. With that in mind, here’s a look at the components of a person’s divorce records:
- A divorce certificate is a simple document that shows basic details like the name of the two divorcees, the date the divorce was finalized, the court’s address, and the result of the procedure.
- A financial statement is a form that outlines the liabilities and assets of both parties.
- A divorce decree is the final document that explains how the parties want to settle their affairs. These include details about how both parties will share time with the children, how they’ll divide their properties, how they’ll provide child support, and other relevant details.
There are many other documents relating to a person’s divorce, but the court doesn’t record all of them. If they do, those documents will usually be part of the divorce decree or settlement.
Are Divorce Records Public In The Us?
Yes, divorce records, in general, are public in most states in the US. They’re generally considered part of the public record—records that contain information managed by a governmental body that must be accessible to the public. However, as discussed in the previous section, a divorce record isn’t a single document. Rather, it’s a collection of documents, forms, or statements, each with a different level of accessibility. In that regard, let’s take a look at how accessible or “public” each document truly is:
- Divorce certificates are generally public.
- Financial statements are not public.
- Divorce decrees are public, but the court may redact specific details.
How Long Are Divorce Records Public?
Governmental bodies will maintain public records indefinitely. The same goes for their public status, so it’s safe to assume your divorce records will be public forever. But of course, they’re not always going to be relevant. The children will grow, their finances will change, and their last names may change when they marry again. Hence, the indefinite public status of divorce records shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Can I Avoid Making Divorce Records Public?
Yes, you can. If you or your former spouse asks the court to “seal” or “impound” your divorce records, they may do so. That will result in your divorce records becoming fully or partially private. Though you can make a request regardless of your circumstance, the court would only approve of such a request if the divorce records contain a particularly sensitive piece of information. These may include the following:
- Information that may help identify your underage children
- Any kind of mental or physical information
- Details about any form of abuse
- Sensitive business information
- Banking or financial information of any of the parties involved
Basically, the court will only seal a document that’s part of your divorce records if it contains information that may bring harm to any party involved when seen by the public.
Should I Be Worried About Strangers Looking Into Your Divorce Records?
No, you shouldn’t. Of course, the concern is reasonable since documents relating to your divorce may contain sensitive information like your Social Security Number. While these documents are most likely accessible to the public, the sensitive pieces of data are often redacted or blacked out. Though keep in mind that it’s not always the case, as you may have to remind the court clerk to redact the information.
Also, it’s important to clear the misunderstanding that strangers can get a copy of your divorce records. Yes, in theory, anyone can access your divorce records, but strangers likely won’t be able to do so.
That’s because to find and access a divorce record, you must know a few things about it. These include the full names of both divorcees, their birthdates, and the state or county where the divorce was finalized.
Without these pieces of information, you, or anyone, for that matter, cannot access a person’s divorce records, including your own. That means since a stranger is someone who you don’t know and doesn’t know you, they shouldn’t be able to find your divorce records, much less look into it and get a copy.
(Related: Finding Marriage and Divorce Records in Alabama)
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About The Author
Lenard Arceo is an experienced blogger and writer who enjoys learning to code in his spare time. His commitment to delivering factual content is what has helped him create hundred of helpful articles that have reached millions of people.