Are Arizona Divorce Records Available to the Public?
Similar to marriage certificates, birth certificates and death certificates, divorce records are made available to the public throughout the state. Arizona allows residents to procure copies of marriage records through the Superior Court’s Clerk of the Court that provided the initial marriage license. It is also possible to obtain information about marriages and divorces through online services. The logic in making marriage and divorce records available to the public is to ensure the court system is completely transparent. Otherwise, the court system would be secretive and hidden from public scrutiny. The downside to making divorces known to fellow Arizonans is there is the potential for embarrassing personal information to be displayed to others.
Click here for an article on accessing Arizona public records.
Sealing Divorce Records
In certain situations, divorce records can be sealed. Though the entirety of divorce proceedings in Arizona are rarely sealed, it is likely some aspects of divorce will be sealed if one or both parties involved in the separation make a formal request. However, the judge will not autonomously seal divorce records simply to keep the matter private. Judges respect the fact that divorce records are a natural part of the public record.
If you desire for your divorce record to be sealed, you will have to make a request for the court to seal the records, typically through a Motion to Seal. However, filing a Motion to Seal your divorce records with the court does not guarantee the records will be sealed. The final decision to grand the motion or deny it is made by the family court judge. The judge will consider whether the possible damage to one or several of the divorcees outweighs the widely accepted practice of making divorce records available for public scrutiny. The judge will also consider if the proposed Motion to Seal is tailored in a highly specific manner. Though courts usually do not seal entire divorce cases, many will agree to seal specific aspects of these records when the request has merit and the scope is narrowed.
Filing a Motion to Seal Your Divorce Records? Narrow the Scope
If you decide to make a formal request to seal your divorce records, it is imperative it is as specific as possible. The request has to be tailored to the details of the situation and the reasoning behind sealing divorce records. As an example, a request for divorce records to be sealed to protect children might be denied yet a request to seal parts of a case that specifically name offspring might be approved. Another common example of a successful request for sealing divorce records is the sealing of parts of a case that note abuse. The court might provide the remainder of the divorce records to the general public yet portions related to abuse will be removed from public view.
Why Some Arizonans Seal Their Divorce Records
There are several reasons why family court judges grant Motions to Seal divorce records. In some cases, sealing divorce records prevents the public from finding out about false allegations that have the potential to damage someone’s reputation. Sealing divorce records also safeguards proprietary business information, Social Security numbers, bank account information and other sensitive data. Perhaps most importantly, sealing divorce records protects those who have been victimized by domestic violence as well as the identities of children. However, documents and details that might lead to public embarrassment might not meet the standard of harm necessary for the court to seal records. The bottom line is judges will always favor a transparent court system over the potential embarrassment of a divorcee.
Find out about domestic violence and child custody in Arizona.