Generally speaking, divorces are public domain, meaning that all records pertaining to the divorce are openly available to all in the name of transparency and accountability.
Still, there are times when divorce lawyers receive requests from their clients to keep certain records private.
Though divorce law firms do not have the ability to automatically seal anyone’s divorce records, there are processes that spouses can go through to privatize certain information.
In high-profile or otherwise sensitive divorce cases, an experienced divorce attorney can help their clients conceal certain private records using various legal processes.
1. Marking Documents As Sensitive or Restricted
The first line of defense that any divorce law firm can use to protect their clients’ private records is to mark all documents as “sensitive” or “restricted” records.
While this does not seal these documents completely, it will prevent them from being uploaded to the family court website where public court records are usually found.
2. Concealing Client Identity
Divorce lawyers can further protect the identities of their clients by concealing their identities on all case records.
Using an initial or some other consistent marking in lieu of names, social security numbers, financial information, and other sensitive information, divorce attorneys can draft all documents to include these non-decipherable details to protect the identities of their clients.
3. Filing For A Protective Order
One other way in which divorce law firms can assist their clients in keeping divorce records private is by aiding them in the filing of a protective order or a confidentiality agreement.
Individual spouses can request what information they would like kept private when filing protective orders.
Confidentiality agreements require both spouses and their divorce lawyers to reach an agreement about which information will be kept private throughout their divorce case and the penalty faced if the agreement is breached.
4. Requesting A Private Divorce
In certain cases, divorce attorneys can file a motion for a private divorce when the case fits specific parameters, which means all records are sealed.
Under Rule 76a and with appropriate reasons for so doing, the Texas family court may agree to seal the records of a high-profile divorce or one that includes highly sensitive information.
To achieve this, divorce lawyers and clients must be able to illustrate why keeping records open to the public could be harmful to the spouse and also explain why sealing these records would not be harmful to public health and safety in any way.
A Divorce Attorney Can Help Keep Records Private
As much as most people prefer not to have details about their divorce open to the public, divorce records are typically classified as public records that are available for public research.
In cases where protecting some or all of those records is important, divorce law firms can take certain steps to keep some details private.
When public knowledge of divorce information could potentially be harmful, divorce attorneys can file to have those records sealed.
Clients concerned about the exposure of their personal information should discuss this up front with their lawyer to come up with the best plan.
Schreier & Housewirth Family Law
1800 West Bowie Street, Suite 200-E
Fort Worth TX 76110
Gregory L. Housewirth is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist practicing in Fort Worth Texas. With 30 years of family law experience, Mr. Housewirth has represented hundreds of clients in divorce, custody, CPS, modification, and grandparent cases. In addition, Mr. Housewirth is a qualified family law mediator and a member of Collaborative Law Texas, a practice group dedicated to promoting collaborative divorce in Texas.
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