Are There Public Records When People File for Divorce?
By Teo Spengler
Updated March 30, 2020
A divorce may be highly personal, but it isn't secret. Generally, all documents filed in a court action are public records, accessible in the court clerk's office and sometimes over the Internet; divorce records are no exception. Once the dissolution petition is filed with the court, divorce pleadings are generally open to public viewing.
Divorce Records Public
A couple may keep their fights and arguments secret, but they cannot do the same with a divorce filing. Divorces commence when one spouse files a complaint or petition to dissolve the marriage. The court clerk opens the case and, immediately, the petition and every other court document filed in the matter becomes public record.
Read More: How to Get Copies of Divorce Records
State laws exempt a few types of filings in divorce court from the general rule of being public record. Some states protect documents detailing domestic abuse from public viewing. Similarly, psychological examinations of spouses and like documents gathered in custody disputes are often kept confidential. All of a judge's notes and first drafts are protected as private, as well as internal memos from her staff.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.