Can I keep my divorce out of the public record?

We live in an information age. It is easier than ever to get hold of records on people. All you have to do is conduct an online search and volumes of data can be revealed. Laws protecting privacy vary state by state. In Massachusetts, the presumption is that every government record is public. As such, when a couple divorces, the default is that the public can access those records.

It is possible to seek exemptions, however the criteria for granting them is tightly controlled. Experienced attorneys will know what divorce-related exemptions might be possible. Once identified, that experience can be leveraged to craft and present arguments to persuade a court to grant the request.

Examples of exemptions

Under the law, exempted records fall into two categories. There are those that are kept private by specific statute. For example, a request for the release of an arrest record can be denied as being exempt as Criminal Offender Record Information. The second category includes records that might be exempted by implication. Exemption (c) is one that might be used to address divorce-related issues

One key standard used to determine if a petition is appropriate is if disclosure of certain divorce information might "constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." To pass muster, one has to make the case that the information to be sealed qualifies as an intimate detail and that keeping it private outweighs the public's right to know.

What's important to remember is that seeking exemptions is done on a case-by-case basis, and the rules for granting exemptions and sealing public records are narrow. Knowing what is possible depends on getting a comprehensive legal assessment of your particular situation.

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