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Are divorce records private in NY state?

Sealing Divorce Papers in New York: Can the Seal be Broken?

📂As you are considering filing for divorce there may be a lot worrying you. For many individuals, especially those in the public eye and high net worth people, they have legitimate worries that  third parties will have access to your personal divorce papers. You will have your most intimate details in those records after all, the family financials, income and expenses will be exposed. Are these going to be public records? Can anyone get their hands on your most private life details? The short answer to this question is NO, BUT…

The state of New York has stronger privacy laws regarding divorces. Not every state is the same, but NY State made this a real priority and created a specific law about it!

👩‍⚖️Under New York Domestic Relations Law (“DRL”) § 235, pleadings (Divorce Complaint, Divorce Answer, Amended Answers and Complaints) to a matrimonial action are sealed for 100 years, in other words, for your lifetime. Only the divorcing parties themselves or the attorneys’ listed in their case may obtain the court files.

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However, the court has acknowledged that in some circumstances, the private divorce records of couples’ divorce proceedings can be released. Courts may order the divorce records to be released if good cause is shown. Before a court order can be issued though, the court must be convinced by the applicant that intrusion into essentially private matters is warranted. The Court calls the standard “special circumstances,” and a showing of such circumstances is required.

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⚖️One situation to unseal divorce records is for defendants in civil tort actions (negligence lawsuit, for example). Courts have to balance the privacy interests of the divorced spouses with the legitimate interests of third parties in obtaining access to evidence relevant to court proceedings brought against them by divorced persons.  You would have to prove a really strong connection about the later lawsuit to paperwork and information in the divorce that would force the court to allow the unsealing. A mere fishing expedition through private papers will not survive this type of a test by a judge.

If you are considering a divorce, contact an experienced New York divorce and family law attorney. The attorneys at SHEPELSKY LAW GROUP are here for you in your toughest times. Schedule a consultation with us today!!!

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