I’m a Private Person. Will My Divorce Records Be Public?
You’ve filed for divorce, or have just recently had your divorce finalized. Throughout the process, you and your former spouse filed motions and had information admitted into evidence. Some of it may be private information, such as financial records or sworn statements.
The process may leave you wondering: Are the D.C. court records of your divorce accessible to the general public?
The answer to that question is a little more complicated than a simple “Yes” or “No.”
The fact that you got divorced, as well as the date your divorce was finalized, is public record. Some of the records of your divorce itself, including anything that was filed officially with the court – this includes your original complaint and any motions made by either party – are public court records. Anyone can access these records, regardless of whether they were a party to your case or not, including members of the media.
However, just because certain portions of your case are public record, that doesn’t mean everything is fair game for viewing.
Specific portions of your divorce file will remain private, just for viewing by the judge or in your attorney’s records. Items such as financial information, copies of depositions, and information regarding your children, aren’t accessible by the public. These records also are not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, so media and other submitting persons can’t access them.
In some extreme cases, you can petition the court to fully seal your divorce file. That would mean that only the fact that you got divorced and on what date you were divorced are available to the public.
Sealing a file is usually reserved for cases where extreme discretion are necessary, or when having the information publicly accessible could pose a safety risk to the parties.
If you’re a private person and are worried about the details of your divorce being spread far and wide, there are some things that may be accessible by anyone interested. However, the majority of the very private details are still considered protected information and aren’t viewable to anyone who walks through the door of the courthouse.
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