Under special and unique circumstances, it is possible to have divorce records sealed, or at the very least, keep the parties’ identities anonymous. This practice is usually executed when there are high profile clients involved, such as celebrities or the very wealthy. However, being in the public eye with an increased amount of media attention is not grounds alone for sealing court records.
A written finding of good cause must be submitted in order to have part, or all, of the records sealed or kept anonymous. According to the court case Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court, “any order denying access must be narrowly tailored to serve compelling objectives, such as the need for secrecy that outweighs the public’s right to access”. This means that while the public has every right to access court records, they can be denied that right given certain important circumstances.
In addition, “[a]ttendent publicity, the potential embarrassment, stigma or humiliation suffered by the parties is not sufficient to justify sealing the file” ( Liapakis v. Sullivan). While some may believe that public shaming and embarrassment is an example of good cause, the court doesn’t agree. As stated in the Matter of Herald Co. 734 F.2d 93, 100, “a finding of ‘good cause’ presupposes that public access to the documents at issue will likely result in harm to a compelling interest of the movement and that no alternative to sealing can adequately protect the threatened interest”.
There are alternatives to completely issuing a sealing order, and the court will oftentimes consider these possibilities. If a judge deems that a case does not meet the qualifications for a full sealing of records, they will either issue a partial sealing ( Matter of Adoption of John Doe, 16 Misc 2d 714), redaction ( Matter of Phillip Marshall, supra), or decide to allow the case to appear anonymously ( Anonymous v. Anonymous) so the names of the Plaintiff and Defendant do not appear on any court and trial documents. As expected, the determining of whether or not to allow an order of sealing (or one of the alternatives options) is considered on a case by case basis.
If you are expecting to have a high profile divorce, it is important to retain a New York divorce lawyer who will be conscious of your sensitive case and will work to make sure that this personal matter stays private and away from prying eyes. Hiring an attorney who has experience with celebrity and high profile divorce cases will, ultimately, determine how your case is approached and the outcome. Discretion is key in these situations and the professionals at Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C. will always handle your divorce proceedings with care.