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Sealing divorce, custody records: looking briefly at the requirements, P.2

Previously, we began looking at the issue of sealing court records in divorce and child custody cases. Generally speaking, of course, the interest in keeping court records open to the public outweighs the interest in keeping such matters private, but as we pointed out last time, there are certain grounds on which courts can order the sealing of records.

Just as important as arguing the grounds for sealing court records in divorce and child custody cases is meeting the requirements for sealing court records.  The requirements can vary jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but we’ll look briefly here at the basics. First of all, requests to seal records must be made in writing and sent to the judge in the case. Judges, for their part, are required to state the reasons for sealing records and exactly what records are being sealed. 

In some cases, it may be possible to have the whole court file and the progress docket sealed, while in other cases, only the court file will be sealed. Still other cases will only require the sealing of a particular document within the court file, and/or removing a party’s name from the progress docket. In the latter case, a substitute term must be provided. Several other rules must be following in the sealing of court records.

As can be seen in the Pitt-Jolie custody case, sealing court records is not possibly simply because a party would rather have the case be private. Unfortunately, that is the way it is. That being said, there are some cases where sealing court records really is justified. Working with an experienced attorney ensures that a strong argument can be made on the grounds for sealing records, and that the proper procedure is followed to ensure the effectiveness of the court order.

Source: Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.051(c)(9)

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