Can You Look Up Divorce Records?

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Most couples would probably not want their divorce battle to be public. Who wants their family members, friends or neighbors to look up their divorce records to learn about what went wrong in their marriage, how much they have in assets and what they received from the divorce. Whether information is public and private in divorce is established by New York law. If you’re considering divorce, here are some facts you should know:

Availability of New York State Divorce Records

Under New York law, the only information available to the public in divorce actions is the case caption (the names of the parties to the divorce action), the name of the judge and the name of the court. The rest of the divorce records are sealed to everyone but the parties, their attorneys and the court. 

Public Access to New York State Court Proceedings in Divorce

While divorce records are private, court proceedings are generally open to the public. Anyone can walk into a courtroom to listen to what is going on. Depending upon the circumstances, the parties and their attorneys may want to take care to protect the confidentiality of information revealed in court. However, not disclosing confidential information may alter the court’s decision on a particular issue. If the parties want something to remain confidential, they can make an application to the judge to close the court to the public while the confidential issues are being litigated. To that end, there is a very high barrier to overcome in this regard given the public policy of courts being open to the public.

Keeping Divorce Private

Absent a celebrity or other type of high-profile divorce, it’s unlikely that anyone would show up in the courtroom to hear the parties argue. However, if the couple is wealthy, well-known or there are other circumstances causing interest in the divorce, then there is a possibility of media or other public presence in the courtroom. In such cases, the parties may want to consider avoiding the courtroom to the extent possible to help ensure privacy. The best way to do that is by being proactive and having a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement before there are any marital problems. If the parties have already filed for divorce, then the key to minimizing litigation is to settle disputes out-of-court either through negotiation or mediation.

One of the many advantages of mediation is that it offers the parties a private setting to try to resolve their issues. In mediation, only the parties, their lawyers and a mediator are present during each session and all discussions remain confidential.

If you are considering divorce, it may relieve you to know that the public cannot look up divorce records. However, if you still have privacy concerns, you should discuss this with your attorney. Our firm works with many clients that want to maintain confidentiality. To learn how we can help you, contact us for a consultation.

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