Are My Divorce Records Public?
Most divorce records are, in fact, considered a matter of public record and are contained in the county where your divorce was issued. It may feel a little invasive to know that divorce certificates are so easily obtained and are considered, by law, a public affair. However, there are ways you can protect your personal information from prying eyes and keep your private matters just that, private.
Each state has their own rules about divorce and public records, and in the state of Oregon divorce certificates are available upon request via the Oregon Center for Health Statistics. Officially, the divorce documentation is called a divorce decree, and it will provide the details of a marital separation, including key information surrounding asset division, support payments, and other legal agreements.
A divorce record may contain any of the following:
- The initial complaint or motion for divorce
- When the marriage was terminated
- How property and other assets were divided
- The child custody agreement
- Child support documents
- Spousal support documents
In general, any official documents relevant to the divorce will be included in the record. For example, it may contain information such as the ex-wife deciding to legally return to using her maiden name.
In order to protect this information, there is an option to file your divorce records under seal.
Filing Divorce Under Seal
To have your divorce filed under seal, you have to make a request in court, asking that the records be sealed. Sealing your divorce records will prevent them from being stored as public record, and will instead make them available only to the parties involved in the case. The court will decide whether or not to seal the divorce records based on the need for privacy, and whether or not that need outweighs the public’s right to court information. The basic idea is that citizens have a right to see what the courts funded by their tax dollars are doing. Judges will not file a divorce under seal to save a person embarrassment, but will do so to protect a person, family, or business from harm.
Common reasons for sealing divorce documents include:
- Protecting the children involved in the divorce from identification
- Protecting victims of domestic violence
- Shielding sensitive information, such as bank accounts, social security numbers, etc.
- Guarding sensitive business information
- Preventing exposure of false allegations that could potentially cause libelous damage to a person’s reputation
Tailoring your request to seal information
You may also seek to tailor your request to seal divorce documents. Simply put, state which parts of your records you want kept private, and why. This is called a “narrowly tailored” request to seal divorce records, and could work just as well to grant you the confidentiality you seek. Asking for particular details to be kept concealed, rather than the entire record, is much more frequently granted by the courts.
If you wish to request a seal of your divorce records, you must go to the county where your divorce was granted, or a court with jurisdiction over wherever your divorce was handled. Next, you would file a motion to seal the records, which can either be done individually, or together with your ex-spouse. The best way to go about this is to hire an experienced divorce attorney who can help you navigate the complex court system.For help sealing your divorce documents, or for more information about what would be contained in your divorce decree, contact our Oregon office at McKinley Irvin.