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Sealing divorce, custody records: looking briefly at the requirements, P.1

Readers who pay attention to pop culture and celebrity news may know that Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been working through a messy divorce and custody battle. One of the most recent updates in the case is that Brad Pitt was unsuccessful in requesting that divorce records in the case be sealed.

Pitt had apparently requested that documents relating to custody arrangements for the couple’s adopted children be sealed. The judge handling the case reportedly rejected the request on the grounds that the requirements for sealing documents were not met. 

Sealing divorce records is certainly not something that is possible in every case, but it is important to be aware of the possibility, particularly in divorce cases with particularly sensitive information that best remains private. Under Florida law, there are various grounds for a court to grant an order to seal court records. The following grounds may apply in divorce and child custody cases:  

  • To prevent serious and imminent threat to the fair, impartial and orderly administration of justice
  • To avoid substantial injury to innocent third parties
  • To avoid substantial injury to a party by disclosing matters protected by a common law or privacy right
  • To comply with established public policy

In child custody cases, it is sometimes possible to have court records sealed by arguing that it is necessary to do so to avoid substantial injury to the children, or that keeping records open to the public would result violate a party’s privacy rights. Such cases are rare, but it is important to be aware of the possibility.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this issue, and how an experienced attorney can help in cases involving sealing of divorce or child custody court records.

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

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