A judge in Northern Kentucky outside of Cincinnati recently made national news for sealing her divorce records. The family law judge lived in Kenton County, Kentucky, but filed in Grant County, which is an hour south. There was no reason offered by the judge for sealing her records, but it is more common for the wealthy or high-profile cases where litigation is involved. One of the cornerstones of our legal system is that all events that take place in court are public records by default, but a request to seal them can be made by the parties involved, which the judge takes under advisement but usually allows. One way to avoid leaving public records is to avoid litigation by using mediation or some other alternative.
As is often the case with local celebrities or public officials, a local newspaper petitioned to have the records unsealed. In this case, the judge is a public employee who ruled on cases involving hundreds of Northern Kentucky families. She bases her decisions on couples’ most personal information, yet she sought to keep her divorce private. Despite attempting to seal the court records, nothing unsavory was brought to light when the records were unsealed.
Another judge regrets sealing them
The judge who granted the petition to seal records later wrote in her order to unseal them that she regretted sealing them. The basis of this decision was that the couple did not have to choose litigation, and thus create public records. She redacted two paragraphs and a letter written to the court by the husband and then released the rest.
There is nothing wrong with sealing
Sealing court records is perfectly legal as long as both parties agree to it. It often protects the family’s information and details they do not want children to learn. Another example is protecting trade secrets involving one spouse’s business. It may include money matters that they would never consider sharing with friends or extended family.
Those filing for divorce who have concerns about sharing the details of their personal life should discuss this issue with an attorney, particularly if the divorce is a potential target for the local media. They can then determine the benefits of litigation, the potential for sealing, and other options.