Are Divorce Records Public?

Are Divorce Records Public?

Initiating the divorce process often compels people to revisit some of the most personal moments of their lives, laying bare intimate details before their soon-to-be ex-spouse, attorneys, potentially a judge, and sometimes a court reporter. Whether within the confines of a traditional courtroom or the virtual space of a Zoom room, the necessity to disclose private information becomes an unavoidable aspect of divorce proceedings. This challenge is amplified when children are involved or when the prior relationship with your ex is marked by toxicity.

The added layer of complexity arises from the fact that divorce records are public, prompting a crucial need to navigate the balance between honesty during legal proceedings and protecting your privacy. 

This article will define what divorce records entail, discuss the accessibility of these records, and address the privacy implications of divorce records being public. Additionally, it will explore ways that you can request these records be sealed to preserve your privacy.

Overview of Divorce Records

Are divorce records public? The short answer is generally yes. In some states, full access to divorce records is permitted, allowing anyone with curiosity to request a copy of your records. However, other states have limitations on the information that can be accessed, providing only a restricted view of your divorce records. To understand the implications fully, it’s crucial to define divorce records and determine what documents are encompassed within them.

Divorce records contain all documents filed in your case, which include petitions, motions, summons, court orders, and various other legal documents.

Understanding Divorce Records Contents: From Personal Details to Legal Documents

These documents provide exhaustive details about you and your spouse, including your address, age, income, employment, and information about your children. Intimate details about the date and nature of your marriage are also disclosed. The conclusive documents in a divorce case often include the Marital Settlement Agreement (commonly known as “MSA”), Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage (referred to as “JDOM”), and, if children are involved, an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (referred to as “APR”).

  • The MSA functions as a written contract outlining the responsibilities and rights of both parties post-divorce. It examines the division of bank accounts, debts, marital property, spousal support, child custody, and child support. 
  • The JDOM briefly describes the facts of your case and concludes with an order granting the divorce. 
  • The APR can provide intricate details about your children’s education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities, offering insight into both your and your spouse’s parenting roles.

While divorce records contain a wealth of information about you and your family, it’s essential to acknowledge what’s not included. Some states require that both parties complete a financial affidavit, a document that provides information about your financial situation to the judge and the other party. This includes details about income, expenses, assets, and debts. Financial affidavits and associated documents are typically excluded from court filings. Additionally, sensitive information like your full social security numbers, complete debit and credit card numbers, and entire financial account numbers are prohibited from being filed with the court. 

Read “How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Divorce? And 4 Signs You are On Your Way.”

Public Accessibility of Divorce Records: Balancing Transparency and Privacy

Divorce records are made public to foster transparency and provide insight into courtroom proceedings. To request someone’s divorce records, you generally need to know the name of the court where the divorce took place and the case number. If the case number is unknown, some court systems allow searches using the names of both parties and other basic details. A small fee is required, and copies of the divorce documents can be requested. In the past, a visit to the courthouse where the parties were married was necessary, but today, many states offer the convenience of online requests.

While this easy accessibility serves a public interest, it raises serious privacy concerns.

Divorce records contain sensitive personal information about you and your family, and the prospect of this information being accessible to the public may evoke concerns. Details such as workplace, income, or the school attended by your children are now readily available. Additionally, you will not be notified if someone requests access to your records. Balancing transparency with the need for privacy becomes a significant consideration in the context of divorce records. It’s understandable to feel uneasy about the public nature of divorce records.

However, it’s important to note that even though they are technically public records, the process to access all documents in your case isn’t as simple as it may seem. Specific details, such as case numbers and court names, are required, adding a layer of protection. Additionally, many of the documents must be requested, and some states inquire about your reasoning for the request or ask about your relation to the case.

Regardless, there are steps you can take to keep some intimate details of your life private, including the option to have your records sealed.

This process allows you to protect certain information, ensuring a balance between maintaining your privacy and the transparency required by the legal system.

Sealing Divorce Records

To seal your divorce records, you must petition the court to file them under seal and present a compelling reason for doing so. 

Valid justifications may involve protecting your children, financial details, and any personal information about physical or mental health, as well as domestic or child abuse. The court has complete discretion in determining whether to grant the request for sealing.

Consulting with a divorce attorney is crucial to ensure proper support for making this request.

Your petition should be meticulously tailored and focus solely on the specific portions you believe are necessary to be kept private from the public.

Consider reading “Your 55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”

If the court approves the request, only the specified portion will be sealed, making it significantly challenging to access. Anyone seeking access would need to petition the court, providing sufficient reasoning for the request. While the process of sealing divorce records can be demanding, if you believe it is in the best interest of your family, it is a pursuit worth considering. You have options to prevent the private contents of your life from becoming public and many courts acknowledge that the public’s right to access records with personal information is not absolute. Protecting these details helps ensure your family’s well-being and maintains the necessary balance between transparency and privacy in legal matters.


While the public is entitled to transparency from the court system, this does not mean having unrestricted access to all the intimate details of your life revealed in your divorce records. These records encompass not only petitions or motions but also significant documents like your MSA, JDOM, and APR, divulging extensive details about your personal life. Information about your residence, employment, and income is accessible in these records, and given their ease of access to request these records, it becomes crucial to take steps to protect your information.

You can petition the court to seal your records by presenting a compelling reason and specific details for why the records should be sealed. Consulting with an attorney is essential to strategize on what aspects you want to be sealed and to articulate a persuasive justification for the court. If your request is granted, the specified portion will be sealed, making it challenging for non-parties to access. The public’s right to transparency should not compromise your right to privacy. In the midst of the challenges posed by divorce, it’s crucial to remember that you have options to protect yourself and preserve the intimate details of your family’s life.


Teresa is a third-year law student in Chicago committed to advocating and supporting survivors of gender and power-based violence. With a longstanding interest in family law, she aspires to pursue a career in this field after graduation. Her goal is to create a meaningful impact by being a voice for those who may struggle to find their own, providing the necessary support and empowerment they need to navigate the legal system and achieve justice.


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*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

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