The recent news of the divorce of a southern governor has made headlines in Colorado and across the nation. The matter is of interest not due to a scandal, but because the parties have successfully petitioned the family court handling their divorce to seal the records from public view. Many across the nation feel that if divorce records are public information for the “average” person, then no individual should be given exception to that rule. Others, however, feel that the end of a marriage is a private matter and want to learn if they can have their own cases kept from the public record.
Governor Robert Bentley and his wife of 50 years filed for divorce in August. They asked the judge to seal their records, asserting that the end of their marriage was a private matter. Furthermore, they argued that Robert Bentley’s position as governor creates a situation in which sealing the records is in the parties’ best interests. The court agreed, and as of the time of this report, only the parties, their legal counsel and officers of the court can access those records.
Anyone can petition the court to seal their divorce records, and the outcome depends largely on the attitude of the judge regarding the matter. Successful arguments usually take one of two approaches. The claim is sometimes made that allowing the records to be released to the public is a violation of the privacy of the parties. Another approach is to argue that the contents of the divorce records contain trade secrets or information that could pose a threat to national security.
Anyone in Colorado who wishes to ask a court to seal their divorce records should do so with a well-reasoned legal argument at the ready. It is important to work with a divorce attorney to craft a petition that makes a strong case for sealing such records. While outcomes such as the one enjoyed by Governor Robert Bentley are uncommon, that may be partly based on the fact that very few couples make similar requests in regard to their own divorce case.
al.com, “Can you get your divorce records sealed like Gov. Bentley?“, Leada Gore, Sept. 10, 2015