For most people, the divorce process is an extremely intimate experience. The divorce process inherently involves very private, personal information and details that many people do not want to share openly. Given the extremely personal nature of the Florida divorce process, it may be surprising for some people to know that Florida divorce records are publicly accessible. While the process for obtaining Florida divorce records is not as simple as conducting an internet search, couples going through the divorce process should be aware that there are relatively few barriers preventing just about anyone that wants to from accessing your Florida divorce records unless you work with your divorce attorney to take important steps to prevent that from happening. This article explores the way in which divorce records can be accessed, reasons you may want to protect your divorce records, and how you can work with your Florida divorce attorney to protect personal information related to your divorce.
Access to Divorce Records
For nearly a century, Florida divorce records have been publicly accessible. This is the case in most states throughout the country, too. In Florida, the process for general public access to divorce records is relatively simple. Members of the general population wishing to access divorce records can request to do so online, through the mail, via fax, over the phone, or in person. Persons interested in obtaining your divorce records simply need to fill out a form with the names of those involved in the proceedings, the date of dissolution, and the place where dissolution of the marriage occurred. The application also requires the applicant to provide proof of identification and the reason they wish to access the divorce records. The applicant must pay a $5 fee to access the records and, as long as the divorce records have not been sealed, will receive the divorce records requested once the application for those records has been appropriately processed.
Personal Implications of Public Access to Florida Divorce Records
Generally, people want to protect their private information. In today’s digital age, however, access to an individual’s personal information seems to get easier every single day. In some instances, tech-savvy individuals can find multiple ways to access a person’s personal financial information. Most people are aware of the dangers and inconvenience that a stranger’s access to your personal financial information can cause: It can lead to identity theft, financial difficulties, and a lengthy process to rectify the situation. However, other types of personal information can be just as damaging when the public is able to access and use that information. For example, while your credit card information and personal pin numbers likely will not appear in your divorce records, more general private financial information might be listed. Individuals with larger estates that must be divided and distributed by a Florida court may not want the public to know exactly what their personal estate entails. Divorce records can include more general information about assets, debts, and division of property that can give prying eyes more information about you than you may want them to have. While this information is not likely to provide access to detailed financial information, it certainly allows people to find out more about your financial portfolio than you may want them to know. It may also provide the general public with details bout the financial aspects of your divorce settlement, such as monthly child support or alimony obligations.
Financial information is not the only type of personal information an individual may not want the public to have access to. Given the emotional nature of the Florida divorce process, there are circumstances where specific allegations may arise during the course of these proceedings. You may not want the general public to know the specific reasons behind your divorce, especially when such reasons might include infidelity or other extremely personal matters that could have led you to seek a divorce. There is also the potential for criminal allegations to arise during the divorce process, and even if such accusations are baseless they can paint you in a negative light if they become publicly accessible.
Sealing Florida Divorce Records
It is potentially possible to seal all or part of your Florida divorce records depending on the circumstances surrounding your individual divorce. A family law attorney that focuses on the Florida divorce process will be able to provide more detailed information on the process required to seal Florida divorce records. Sealing these records makes them inaccessible to the public in most situations, so it can be an effective process for protecting potentially sensitive information you may not want to be made available to the general public.
In general, a Florida court must have a reason to seal your divorce records. Usually, this occurs when private business or financial information is contained in the divorce records. Courts will also consider allegations of certain criminal activities, like child abuse or sexual abuse, as reasons for sealing divorce records, especially in situations where such allegations are not proven. While other personal information can be a reason for a court to seal divorce records, it is usually not enough to simply tell the court you are embarrassed about the content of your divorce records. Basically, courts must determine whether or not your reason for requesting that your divorce records be sealed outweighs the public’s right to access otherwise public court proceedings. While anyone can request their divorce records be sealed, it is not a request Florida courts will grant automatically just because you ask.
Legal Assistance with Florida Divorce Records
Divorce has the potential to offer people a chance at a new beginning. However, it is a stressful process filled with various emotions and intimate details of a relationship people worked hard to build. It is important to work with a Florida family law attorney that focuses their practice on divorce so that you can receive the individualized attention you need during the divorce process. Scott J. Stadler has many years of experience working with individuals on all aspects of the divorce process, including public access to divorce records. Experience like that can help you navigate the divorce process more smoothly and help you focus on your well-being during and after the Florida divorce process. Contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation where you will be able to find out more about what the Florida divorce process entails as well as find the answers to many divorce-related questions you may have.