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Can You Seal Divorce Records?

Divorce may be relatively common, but that doesn’t mean everyone who’s ended a marriage wants their divorce records to be public knowledge. Whether you’re interested in leaving your own divorce in the past or you’re curious about friends’ and neighbors’ splits, you need to know how much data one can dig up. Find out when and how you can seal divorce records and discover the scintillating details of some recent newsworthy attempts to keep divorce records private.

Are Divorce Records Public Documents?

Before delving into public figures’ recent divorce battles, it’s important to understand the nature of these records. As a general rule, court proceedings like divorces are public issues. That means divorce records are public in most jurisdictions, since courts file this type of paperwork on the public record.

Of course, not everyone wants their divorce records to be available for family, press, or members of the public to peruse. That’s why some people opt to seal their divorce records. In a divorce, either party can request for the records to be sealed, but it’s the judge’s decision whether or not to do so.

In most cases, the judge considers how much damage the requesting party would endure from a publicly visible record against the court’s duty to produce public records. Most people have very specific reasons why they need to keep their records private. While the divorcees’ names always remain on the public record, judges can seal either a complete divorce record or just select parts of it.

Reasons to Seal Divorce Records

Though most divorces are public records by default, some states automatically file private information under seal. In other areas, there are also plenty of reasons to seal divorce records. For instance, some parents want to protect their children’s identities in these potentially damaging documents, so they request to file parts that mention the kids under seal. In addition, sealed records can protect the identities of domestic violence victims involved in divorces.

Sometimes people simply want to protect personal information and prevent it from becoming part of the public record. In these cases, they may request to seal a divorce record that contains social security numbers or important business information.

In other cases, though, sealed divorce records have more scandalous natures. Sometimes people request to keep records private because they include unproven or false allegations. Though the records may not include anything truthful, they could be damaging or embarrassing enough that they could harm a person’s reputation.

Seal divorce records

Newsworthy Attempts to Keep Divorce Records Private

Even though the average person has a long list of potential reasons to seal divorce records, ranging from the mundane to the outrageous, keeping these documents private often makes headlines. Take a look at some recent high-profile divorces and the subsequent attempts to keep these records under wraps.

Ohio Power Couple Attempts to Make Divorce Records Secret

When Ohio State Senator Kris Jordan and Delaware County, Ohio Recorder Melissa Jordan began divorce proceedings in summer 2016, their case was far from private. After all, this political couple had a high-profile marriage, so it was no surprise that their divorce generated significant public and media attention.

While this power couple benefited from their constituents’ interest in their professional lives, they sought to keep their divorce proceedings completely under wraps. The initial divorce filing indicates years of disagreements over managing finances and raising their children, but this is the only part of the couple’s divorce record that’s currently public. A judge approved the couple’s request to seal the divorce record in spring 2017, and the divorce proceedings won’t begin until summer 2017.

As The Columbus Dispatch reports, the senator’s attorney commended the judge for sealing the records, citing the importance of protecting the couple’s children. However, there may be much more to the story. A domestic dispute was reported at the couple’s home in 2011, and there may have been cause to charge the senator with domestic violence or assault.

While there may be reasonable cause to seal this power couple’s divorce records, there’s no precedent for doing so simply because both parties are public officials. The media and the couple’s constituents undoubtedly have many more questions to ask about the nature of the split, but whether they can depend on the public record for answers remains to be seen.

Former Fox News Host Bill O’Reilly Seeks to Seal Divorce Records

Sometimes, even sealed divorce records can’t stop either the media or the public from finding out about scandalous details. That’s what happened after divorce proceedings between former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and Maureen McPhilmy concluded. Though the couple’s divorce records are sealed, an anonymous source revealed information about the TV host’s alleged domestic abuse.

O’Reilly has fought to keep his divorce records under seal for years, which has proven difficult during a lengthy custody battle and a separation marred by numerous allegations. What makes this case different, however, are the assorted parties who have argued against keeping these records sealed. For instance, McPhilmy’s attorney, Michael Klar, has sought to file the divorce records publicly, even though a New York Supreme Court judge ruled that select parts must be kept confidential.

In addition, media outlets such as Gizmodo have fought to make these records available by request, arguing that such cases are inherently public. Though the media outlet has argued that people naturally have an interest in the divorce proceedings of a TV host who frequently lectures his audience about morality, the record remains sealed. For now, the public may not have confirmation of the numerous cheating and abuse allegations rumored to be present in these records, but leaks from insider sources may continue to satiate the public.

Whether you want more information about friends’ or acquaintances’ failed marriages or you simply want to find out if your own divorce record was properly sealed, use the people search tool on CheckThem.com. With just a simple search, you can turn up marriage and divorce records and tons of other information on friends and loved ones.