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Are NY Divorce Records Public?

Posted on April 7, 2020

Privacy issues have never been more of a concern than they are today. We all hope that our personal matters are kept private, but are they? When it comes to divorce records, the answer is yes and no. While it’s true that they aren’t public (assuming you’re not a celebrity whose divorce winds up in social media or the gossip column), they can be viewed by you and any litigants in your case, such as your ex-spouse and their attorneys. Chances are, you’d rather those matters were kept private and you have an option to make sure they are: under certain circumstances and with the help of a New York City matrimonial attorney, you can have your divorce records sealed.

How to get your NY divorce records sealed

Many people worry about privacy in general, while others are worried that having their divorce records revealed could damage their relationships (with a new spouse or significant other, for instance, or with children), your reputation, or even your employment opportunities.

In NY, you need to “make a motion or an order to show cause” as to why your record should be sealed and your fears about privacy alone are probably not going to sway the judge. Generally speaking, circumstances under which the court is more likely to allow your divorce records to be sealed include:

  • Child abuse: Under Title 18, U.S. code § 3509, a document that “discloses the name or any other information concerning a child” can be sealed. In New York, this is considered to “have strong privacy reasons for sealing a case.”
  • Domestic violence: Like child abuse, a divorce record can be sealed to protect the victim
  • Financial information: Social Security numbers, bank account information and similar financial information may also be sealed

When a request is made for your divorce papers to be sealed, only certain parts may be included in the seal. This is called narrow tailoring—meaning that any information that is sealed is done only to achieve a specified reason.

To have your divorce records sealed, you can wait 100 years (at which point, the State of New York will automatically do that for you). Otherwise, you (with or without your ex- or soon-to-be-ex spouse’s permission) can petition to have a pertinent part of the record sealed.

Sealing records is not something the courts take lightly: the judicial system is based on the idea of open records and access to information. Your attorney helps by filing a motion that is drafted to make your case and give you the best chances of getting a successful outcome.

Find out how our experienced lawyers can help you with getting a divorce record sealed

For more information, please contact us online or call us at (212) 349-1600 to schedule a confidential appointment to discuss your needs and goals.