Divorce is a highly personal experience. Most people would prefer to keep details about their divorce within their circle of friends and family. In California, though, most court proceedings are maintained as a matter of public record. Divorce is no exception, but there may be things you can do to keep at least some of your divorce records private.
Documents filed under what’s called a ‘sealed cover’ are not accessible to the public. Family law documents that include the following information may be filed under a sealed cover:
- Healthcare records;
- Financial records;
- Identifying information about minors; and
- Information about the identity of a victim of domestic or sexual violence.
If your divorce papers include this type of information, consult with your attorney about ensuring the information is filed under sealed cover.
Motion or Application to Seal
Some documents containing embarrassing or highly personal information are not automatically filed under a sealed cover.
To have these records kept confidential, your attorney may file a motion to seal the record. The motion will be served on all parties. The court then may enter an order granting or denying the request. If granted, not only will the records be hidden from the public, but other parties generally will be prohibited from disclosing information they learn from sealed records.
The term ‘redaction’ means marking out sensitive information in a document. Information may be redacted from documents that are public record. Protected data includes social security numbers and financial account information. So, if you must provide information to the court or opposing counsel that includes your bank account numbers, for example, the account numbers can be redacted.
Learn More About Filing for Divorce
In general, you cannot keep all your divorce records private. However, your attorney may be able to get the court to seal records under certain circumstances.The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.
Media stories on the Ashley Madison hack have spotlighted data security and privacy issues. But there is much more at stake: families. Some have speculated that the release of the Ashley Madison data will lead to increased marital problems and divorce rates.
Before last summer, many people would have had no idea that Ashley Madison was anything other than a person’s name. Now, people nationwide recognize Ashley Madison as a hook-up site for those who are married.
In case you missed it, the personal and private data of over 33 million of Ashley Madison’s customers was recently compromised. The hackers scored traditional personally identifiable information, such as names, street names, passwords, partial credit card debt, and telephone numbers. However, they also accessed private information of a very intimate nature, such as sexual fantasies and message history.
Much of this information was posted online for the world to see. Suddenly, friends, spouses, and others knew not only who was a customer of Ashley Madison but much, much more.
What are the implications of this giant data breach in family law?
Very early on, some divorce attorneys predicted a spike in the divorce rate. Certainly, the ability to confirm infidelity could cause spouses who previously weren’t sure about divorcing to file their papers.
But the implications of this data breach could be wider than originally thought.
Suddenly, one partner is armed with what would appear to be undeniable evidence of infidelity, and the other partner is likely to be riddled with guilt. This imbalance could cause the former to stake out a position and refuse to budge and the latter to simply fold. Is it possible that these feelings could affect the outcome of divorce proceedings?
Any issue that is wholly or partly in the parties’ control could be easily affected. For example, the parties have a great deal of influence on issues such as personal property division and visitation plans. The guilty partner might feel obligated to cave in, and often, the judge will approve the parties’ plan as long as it is reasonable. Likewise, the imbalance in perceived power could greatly affect settlement and, because feelings are hurt, drive up attorney fees in protracted litigation.
Some issues, however, will not be impacted. For example, California law explicitly spells out how property division will take place. Barring proof of money spent by the guilty partner on affairs, which might be considered marital waste, property division will not be affected. Custody of the parties’ children also will not be affected, as the core focus in custody determinations is the “best interest of the children” and the factors considered by courts are spelled out by law.
If you’re involved in a divorce and don’t know where to turn, you should work with an experienced, compassionate attorney who can help guide you through California law. Attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have substantial experience in Northern California family law, including cases involving infidelity. Please contact us today at (415) 259-6636 to learn more.