When you get divorced in the state of Arizona, there are certain things you will need to know about your divorce record. First of all, divorce records are court records, which means that the information in them is public. Third parties can search for information about your divorce through a variety of channels.
This is unwelcome news for most people who are getting divorced. After all, these records will often have a range of personal information including finances, criminal information, and personal information about minors.
However, even though these records are public and can be obtained, the availability tends to be lower, as they are usually more difficult to get. In some cases, a judge may decide to grant a petition to seal a divorce record. This doesn’t always occur, but the parties can ask that their record is sealed, so the information won’t be available to just anyone.
What Is Considered Part of a Divorce Record?
The term divorce record is a large, catchall term that includes a range of different types of documentation that relates to a person’s divorce. The documents include:
- Divorce Certificates
- Divorce Decrees
- Divorce Court Records
Let’s get a closer look at what each of these types of documentation includes.
A divorce certificate tends to contain only basic information about the case. This might include the names of the parties involved in the divorce, as well as the address of the court where the divorce was finalized. It will also include the date that the divorce was made final. These documents are often used to determine whether someone is divorced or to show proof that they are divorced.
A divorce decree is the court order that finalizes the divorce. The types of information that can be included in the decree will vary substantially from one case to the next. In some cases, they will contain only a small amount of information about the parties and will reference other documents that detail the settlement of the divorce.
Other times, though, the divorce decree will have a substantial amount of information. It might include all of the details regarding how the property was divided, how spousal support was awarded (or not awarded), child support, parenting time and legal decision-making, etc.
The divorce court records are a collection of all of the documents that have been filed in the case. This includes any recordings or transcripts from court proceedings that may have occurred. This can contain a lot of information about the divorcing couple, as well as information about their children, why they are divorcing, finances, their personal lives, etc.
Different types of divorce records may be easier to get than others. Since the divorce certificate will generally only have limited personal details, they are the easiest to obtain. Because decrees and court records have more details information, they are generally more difficult to get. However, they can still be accessed in many cases.
What Can Be Accessed?
According to the Public Records Law ARS 39-212 through 39-161, it is a requirement for “government bodies to be made assessable to the public upon request, as long as there is justification for the access and no reason for the records to be sealed or made confidential.”
If the record is considered confidential, a court order is required before it can be examined. Certain types of information could cause a record to be considered confidential or could be redacted from the record.
This includes any information that involves minor children, for example. This could include custody information, proof of parenthood, adoption information, juvenile cases, or abuse.
If the records contain financial information, such as Social Security numbers, bank statements, or other information that provides details regarding someone’s financial information, the divorce records could be sealed, as well.
Any information that discusses mental health, mental illness, or psychological evaluations could be redacted or sealed, as well. The same is true if there is information concerning protection orders, domestic violence, or abuse.
Why Should You Try to Seal the Divorce Record?
Sometimes, the court will automatically redact certain information, such as Social Security Numbers, from the record. However, that’s not always the case. There is the potential risk that people could access your records for any number of purposes, none of which tend to be for your benefit.
Often a lot of private information is brought up during a divorce. There could be false allegations leveled against you that could damage your reputation, for example. Someone who accesses the divorce record may believe those allegations. There could be discussions of health issues, mental health, addiction, etc. that people would rather keep quiet.
Perhaps a divorcing couple knows that they have curious family members that are going to try to access their records. They don’t want those family members or friends to learn that one or both people in the marriage were having an affair.
There could be any number of things that you don’t want people to know because it’s too private. There is also financial information and info on your minor children to worry about. The best thing to do is to attempt to get the record sealed.
How to Get the Record Sealed
At least one of the spouses will need to petition the court to seal the record. If the judge agrees, as is often the case, it will place severe limits on who can view and copy the record. You will not have to worry about members of the general public getting access to the divorce record, for example. However, the court will always have its own copies of all of the documents.
Keep in mind that if the judge does agree to seal the record, they will typically only seal the part of the file that you ask for when you petition. If you only petition for the finances of your company to be sealed, the other parts of the record will still remain public. Make sure you know what is and isn’t getting sealed, and be sure to request a seal for any sensitive topics.