If you are going through a divorce, then you may wonder who has the capability to learn about the details of your divorce, especially if you have children and/or high net worth. You may be surprised to learn that just about anyone can access your divorce records.
The reason divorce records are public is this: transparency. It allows citizens to know what happens behind closed doors of a courtroom. So, not just divorce records, but just about any other record from a circuit court is accessible by the public. That's thanks to 705 ILCS 105/16, and it allows the public to see things like:
- motions; and
- discovery documents.
Fortunately, like some eligible court records, you may be able to keep your divorce – or parts of it (e.g., personal and financial information) – private. This would limit the public's access or ability to access your divorce records. Here's an overview of how you may be able to keep divorce records private in Illinois.
Common Qualifying Reasons to Seal Divorce Records in Illinois
You must request that divorce records are sealed; the court will not come to that determination on its own. There are a number of reasons why a court may grant a request to have divorce records – or some of them at least – sealed and inaccessible to the public. Some of these reasons include:
- protecting any young children;
- protecting financial information, like bank accounts;
- protecting personal information, like social security numbers;
- safeguarding victims of domestic violence; and/or
- safeguarding proprietary information of a business.
It is always at the discretion of the court to determine if records should be sealed or not. The court will weigh the reasons against the presumption records should be accessible to the public. Thus, you should have a divorce attorney help you write and support the request – because it won't be a request taken lightly by the judge.
How to Prevent Court Records during a Divorce in Illinois?
If you want to prevent anyone from seeing your divorce records or to obtain knowledge about the assets to be divided, then you have options other than going to court. You can settle outside of court, and in this way, there won't be a court record to be made public.
Your attorney can help you negotiate with your spouse on things like:
Upon settling outside of court, the settlement can be incorporated into the final divorce decree by reference. Basically, this means the final divorce decree will state that the terms of the above issues are in a separate document.
But again, as in divorce proceedings, you will have to request from the court that the settlement be attached to the decree by reference so that it can remain private.
If you are thinking of a divorce, live in the greater Chicago metro area, and want to make sure it is kept private, contact Dolci & Weiland today. We understand the need for privacy during a particularly emotional time of your life.