February 24, 2017

Monthly Misconception for February – “Your divorce court file is private.”

Monthly Misconception for February – “Your divorce court file is private.”

It is not private.  It is not confidential. Your divorce, custody or other family court file is a public record.  This means that your file is available for review by your children, parents, neighbors, employees, employers, business competitors, and any other member of the public.

And as the recent Superior Court case Reiss. v. Reiss demonstrates, the court file isn’t private even if both former spouses agree it should be private and formally ask the court to keep the file private.


Essentially all documents filed with the court by either spouse, or their lawyers, are public records.  The exception is the financial affidavit, which is sealed to maintain some limited amount of privacy.

Essentially all orders entered by the court in a divorce case are also public records available for review by the public.

Plus, under most circumstances, any member of the public can obtain the entire transcript of a divorce court hearing if he is willing to pay the transcription fee.

On very rare occasions, a judge may allow a part of a family court file to be kept private if privacy is absolutely necessary to protect the health and safety of a child. But again, this is the rare exception rather than the rule.”

Why this seeming lack for respect for the privacy of divorcing families?  As the court said in the Reiss case:

“The general and overarching purpose …is …the premise that all family court files, despite the universally sensitive and private nature of all such matters, are open to the public…The presumption of openness of the court proceedings . . . is a fundamental principal of our judicial system, courts are not to seal information simply because the parties involved wish to do so. There must be an overarching fear that the information being released will be misused and lead to harm, and this factor must outweigh the right of the public to have access to court records. If sealing is required it should be accomplished in as narrow a basis as possible.”

Again, wow.

Wondering if or how a divorcing couple can maintain privacy, and by the way their dignity, then? 

If you are, there is good news-the answer is yes, by divorcing through mediation or collaboration.

More and more couples in Connecticut are choosing divorce mediation or collaborative divorce primarily so they can keep their personal and family lives, finances, children, and businesses private.  Contact me to learn more by calling 203-271-3888 or emailing me at lcappalli@cappallihill.com.

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