All court proceedings are generally made public record in Indiana and everywhere else. This would include divorce proceedings. The court can be petitioned, and has to agree, for the divorce proceedings and its details to be put under seal. The court has to have a valid reason for details of a divorce to be sealed, such as identifying children or victims of sexual abuse. This is where a divorce lawyer in Indiana can help.
If the court agrees to put your divorce records under seal, then confidential or sensitive information will NOT be available to the public. The records then remain private and can only be requested by a person or institution for precise reasons.
If you have a severe reason, then you, your ex-partner, or both have to ask the court to seal the divorce record. The divorce’s entire record may be sealed by the court or just specific parts of the decree.
Who Makes the Decision to Seal Your Divorce Record and for What Reasons?
The parties that are filing for divorce must be the ones who petition the court to seal the proceedings. The court itself never would decide to do this on its own. If the court is asked to seal the proceedings or parts of it, it would decide whether sealing the proceedings is legally warranted. Also, the seal on the records would be specific as usually, these records are made publicly available.
Some examples of reasons the court may consider sealing the proceedings are:
- A need to protect victims of domestic abuse
- The need to keep certain information such as social security numbers, bank accounts, retirement funds, etc. confidential
- A need to protect proprietary business information
- The need to protect children from identification in the court’s records
For example, it is not unusual for absolutely false allegations to be made by either spouse or others in many divorce proceedings. If the allegations are serious enough that they may be libelous or damage the spouse’s reputation, the court may consider it a reason to seal the record.
The court attempts at all times to provide the public with full transparency as to the nature and details of its decisions. The public is deemed to have a right to know what the courts are doing, what may affect their decisions, and the cases’ actual outcome.
The case has to be made to the court that the information (all or part of it) would cause undue harm to the participants or their children. The divorce participant’s case for asking for the documents to be sealed would have to outweigh the court’s required rules concerning transparency. It is vital to your case that you retain a divorce lawyer that provides you with a unique approach to your individual needs.
How can I Get my Divorce Proceedings Sealed?
Divorce is almost always a highly emotional and traumatic event. It is challenging to accept your marriage’s failure, and even more difficult if children are involved.
The attorneys and the courts are privy to possibly some of the most private aspects of your marriage. Your finances are almost always fully disclosed, and the entire process makes you and your ex feel exposed and emotionally and physically exhausted. If you wanted to find court records in the not too distant past, you had to go to the courthouse itself. The trip, depending on where the case was litigated, might have taken a full day or even more.
Today though, in our digital age, anyone with access to a computer can check on almost anything from the comfort of their home. This makes finding out about all the details of your case, whether they may be embarrassing, contemptuous, or even libelous. So you may be overwhelmed by the current state of things, but remember that requesting that the court seal your records may greatly benefit you and your children in the future. Make sure you have a family lawyer who provides unique perspectives on family law issues.
What does Indiana’s Public Records Law Entail?
Indiana has a relatively strict public records law. The description of access to public records includes a strong statement that it is a matter of public policy. The information on the government’s conduct and proceedings must be open to the public as an essential component of the preservation of the idea of representative government. The public record verbiage includes access to documents, recordings, photos (if used) or virtually any documents filed in your court case. The only things omitted (or redacted) automatically are those documents and facts pertaining to children or domestic violence victims of any form.
If you wish to have your divorced records fully or partially sealed, you will have a substantial burden to overcome. In Indiana, the only records that can be sealed must serve the following reasoning:
- Prohibiting access is essential to preventing the substantive formation of prejudice in an ongoing case
- Prohibiting access to the information would positively serve the public interest
- Access or release of this information would generate a significant risk of harm to the requesting party, others, or the general public
Once the parties’ request is made, the information involved will be held confidential until the court makes a final ruling. If the court grants the sealing of all (or part) of the case, every effort is made to formulate the least restrictive way. The court may block parts of the record or make access harder to obtain, but not always impossible. Trying to seal your divorce proceedings in Indiana is a difficult task, all the more reason to bring this issue up early in discussions with your family lawyer.