You may be a private person and don't want all your dirty laundry exposed, and so, now that you are going through (or at least thinking about) a divorce, you may wonder if it will be public knowledge. Maybe there are children whom you want to protect or assets you don't want others to know about. These and other reasons make many people wonder about their divorce records and public access to them.
Can the Public Access Divorce Records in Florida?
Typically speaking, just like marriage records, divorce records are part of the Florida public records system and can be searched and accessed by anyone in the public. An interested party can request divorce records from the Department of Health (DOH).
So, if you are getting a divorce, whatever records are maintained can be accessed when a person requests the same. Florida has a history of keeping records, like divorce and marriage, open to the public. The purpose is simple: transparency. It allows people to see what happens behind closed courtroom doors.
To deny the public access, there usually has to be a very good reason. The State of Florida will not automatically seal records for any good reason; you will have to request it. You must be very specific about how you request it, too, or else you risk denial of the request and must face the consequences of the public having the ability to access your divorce records.
When are Divorce Records Sealed in Florida?
Florida divorce courts will consider a request by one or both parties to a divorce proceeding to keep divorce records from the public. When making this determination, however, the court will weigh:
- the reason for the request;
- the damage that could be done if records are not sealed; and, among other possible factors,
- how narrowly tailored the request is (e.g., more information than is necessary will not be sealed – the court still wants to keep records open to the public as much as possible).
By and large, most of the weight is given to the reason for the request. Common reasons include:
- to protect the identity of a child;
- to protect domestic violence victims;
- to safeguard proprietary information from a business;
- to keep private any financial accounts, social security numbers, or other similar identifying information; and/or
- to prevent exposure to embarrassing information that could damage a person's reputation, career, or other situation (keep in mind, to prevent publication of embarrassing information alone is not enough – the embarrassing information must have the potential to have a significant impact on some aspect of the person's life).
In the end, it is always up to the judge to make the final decision. If the judge feels that the reason does not carry enough weight sufficient to order the records sealed, then the judge won't. That's why in situations like this, you want to make sure you have a divorce attorney in Orlando, Florida, who knows how to handle these types of requests. Much of it will come down to the way the request is drafted and the documentation provided to support the reason behind the request.