Texas Law Regarding Sealing Court Records
The general rule in Texas is that court records are presumed to be open to view by the general public. In many counties, court records are available online. With advances in technology, it is easier than ever to look up information about people, including their divorce records. Despite the presumption that court records are public, there are exceptions where certain records can be sealed if the Court determines to grant a request to seal records or the whole file, in their discretion. Sealing divorce court records makes sense in many Texas divorce and custody cases.
Texas court records may be sealed when (a) “a specific, serious and substantial interest which clearly outweighs: (1) this presumption of openness; (2) any probable adverse effect that sealing will have upon the general public health or safety;” or (b) “no less restrictive means than sealing records will adequately and effectively protect the specific interest asserted.” Note that the Rules of Civil Procedure define “court records” to include any “documents filed in an action originally arising under the Family Code.” Rule 76a
There are many good reasons people want their divorce court records to be sealed from the public. It requires an experienced Texas divorce and family law attorney who has worked with complex divorce cases before, involving sealing records and keeping your private family information from public view and access. Richard T. Sutherland has represented families in divorce matters where people are concerned about preserving their privacy. For information about Wichita County divorce and sealing divorce court records, call Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas at (940) 691-2100.
Read this Reputation Defender article: Top 10 Reasons to Keep Your Personal Information Private.
Sealing Divorce Court Records by Agreement or by Court Order
There are several methods you and your lawyer can discuss regarding keeping your personal information private in your divorce, custody, modification, or enforcement case. Your divorce lawyer can negotiate with your opposing counsel to agree to have certain court records about the divorce sealed. If your spouse and their lawyer don’t agree to seal records, your lawyer can file a motion with the Court and make the argument for sealing divorce court records at a hearing in court, with notice given to the opposing counsel.
The records you might want to be sealed could be whole documents or portions of the information contained in documents. Parts or whole documents in your pleadings and discovery could contain sensitive information you want to seal. Private information people don’t want the public to view or know can also be part of the final divorce decree. You may want your lawyer to negotiate an agreement that includes a penalty in the event that the other party ends up sharing, publishing, or otherwise leaking sealed court records.
Sealing Divorce Court Records About Personal and Finance Issues
In high conflict divorces with complex business and financial issues, sealing court records may be necessary to protect future interests. For example, if you have an interest in a family business, it may be in everyone’s best interests to protect private information. Competitors in business can take advantage of business relationships and cause problems when private information is public and gets into the wrong hands.
Another article tip: 8 Ways to Spot Emotional Manipulation and How to Avoid it.
If there are allegations of facts that would be embarrassing and damaging to someone’s reputation, sealing court records can protect people from probable adverse effects. Imagine trying to get your children into a school, church, or sports program when people in town may have shared your private information about what is in your divorce records.
Sealing Divorce Court Records About Parenting and Child Custody Issues
Child custody cases and sealed record requests make sense when there are allegations involving the parenting or actions of one parent. For example, a parent’s history of DWI, drug, family violence, and other criminal charges can damage one’s reputation. Even though allegations and information offered as evidence are only about an arrest or charges, that may have been dropped or dismissed, the information is damaging.
Custody modification cases usually come about when there is something wrong with the current custody and visitation arrangement. The allegations involved can be anything from a job change requiring of plans, or a criminal or family violence situation. Depending on what is going on, you and your spouse and children might be better off asking or agreeing to seal the records and protect against others finding in using your private information against you or to gain an advantage in some other context.
Sealing Divorce Court Records With Wichita County Divorce Attorney Richard T. Sutherland
Richard T. Sutherland is an experienced divorce and family law attorney in Wichita County. For decades, well-known families have hired Mr. Sutherland to represent them in divorce and to minimize information about their divorce becoming part of a public discussion. When there is a good reason to seek to protect sensitive divorce and family information, call Mr. Sutherland about sealing divorce court records by calling (940) 691-2100.
Wichita Falls Family Law Attorney Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.