Are Divorce Records Confidential in Florida?
Divorce is one of the most personal experiences someone can endure. It is a matter of deep personal importance, involving your finances, your children, and your reputation. Some court matters are limited to a specific event or claim, but a divorce proceeding impacts your past, present, and future.
So, it’s only natural that you’re concerned about many things in a divorce, including confidentiality. Your spouse may be making egregious and untruthful claims about you, and you would prefer for such accusations to not see the light of day. We understand and agree.
Here’s the bad news, right up front: In Florida, divorce records are not confidential unless sealed.
But now the good news: Here at Dale L. Bernstein Chartered Law Office, our attorney and staff have the experience, the appropriate degree of aggressiveness, and the creativity to protect privileged or otherwise confidential information in high net worth divorce proceedings, and divorce cases throughout the region.
When Private Pain Becomes Public Knowledge
Whether your divorce is highly contentious or not, it’s going to involve sharing a lot of confidential material. Not only with your spouse and their attorney, but also with the Florida family court system. Because divorces are considered civil litigation in Florida, the public also (generally) has the right to access your materials. Indeed, the State has an easy system for just about anyone to request and access information from any civil litigation matter, including divorce proceedings. Such records requests are rarely denied. But in high net worth or celebrity cases it often becomes imperative to protect your confidential information and documentation from the prying public eye.
And records requests may go beyond the release of court order or opinions—they may include the exhibits, myriad financial records, the motion filing papers, and more. Although certain cases such as those involving juvenile delinquency may be sealed as a matter of law, your attorney will generally need to take additional steps to seal your confidential divorce records.
The burden is yours to demonstrate why most divorce records should be confidential. Indeed, public transparency is one of the most important governmental considerations in our state. Which is all well and good for the public at large, but not so helpful when your retirement accounts, debts, allegations of child negligence or adultery, and the like become public knowledge.
Thankfully, our firm is here to lighten your burden in all aspects of your divorce matter, including protecting your confidential information. With more than 35 years of experience, attorney Dale L. Bernstein, Esq., knows the ins and outs of divorce confidentiality, as well as what materials are discoverable or not.
Some of the forms you fill out in a Florida divorce will include extensive disclosure of financial records. For high-net-worth litigants, press involvement or media exposure may complicate your case. That’s why it’s important to retain an aggressive attorney to protect your interests. When appropriate, we will petition the Court to seal your records. Sealed records may not be turned over absent court order or affirmative client release.
Limiting the Divorce Records Shared Throughout Discovery
The fact that records will not automatically be sealed means it is even more important to protect what is turned over in the first place. Throughout the discovery process, Dale L. Bernstein Chartered Law Office will vigorously defend your privacy rights, will move to quash inappropriate subpoenas, and will not provide materials that are privileged or otherwise not required to be turned over. The best defense is a good offense, and that means we will endeavor to protect your financial and other divorce records before they are turned over. That also means that if we are required to file certain motions, we may attach certain exhibits under protective seal as allowable by Florida law.
But a divorce always involves two, so beyond protecting what we disclose, our firm will aggressively restrict your ex and their attorney from providing any confidential materials in their possession. This may mean motion practice when appropriate, filing actions with the court to restrict your ex from providing certain materials to the court or other third parties (such as their expert witnesses), and so on.
Not to mention, we will discuss arbitration, mediation, and other avenues that may limit the amount of information that needs to be disclosed to the Court. Particularly in high net worth or celebrity cases where media involvement may be involved, or in cases involving potential IRS or state tax exposure, we will be creative not only in our case, but also in choosing the best venue.