Are Family Law and Divorce Records Public?
Given the significant press coverage celebrity divorces and family law proceedings receive globally, you may naturally be concerned that details of your divorce or family law proceedings may become published and open for all to read. It is perfectly normal to ask whether family law (including divorce) records are public and is a common question we receive at Damien Greer Lawyers.
In Australia anyone undergoing family law court proceedings is protected by Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975.
Section 121, entitled “Restriction on publication of court proceedings”, restricts any disclosure by “newspaper or periodical publication, by radio broadcast or television or by other electronic means” of the proceedings of the family court dealing or indeed any identification of the parties or witnesses associated with the proceedings. To do so would be punishable by the clauses within Section 121 and can carry a conviction leading to imprisonment as an indictable offence.
Once family law (including divorce) proceedings are finalised, most records are indexed and stored by the respective State court and continue to be restricted from public access – sometimes up to 100 years.
However, judgments can be and are routinely published for use by the legal profession and the Courts as precedents (which can be accessed by the public), but are done so under pseudonyms to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. Any identifying information, such as the cities people reside in or the names of the parties children, are also protected by being removed and replaced with non-identifying letters in their place (e.g. Town A, City B, Child C, etc).
Restrictions are in place to expressly protect the privacy of those going through family law (including divorce) proceedings. This does not however apply at individual level, should you want to access your own divorce or family law court proceeding records and you are able to approach the court to request access.
Should Family Law and Divorce Records be Made Public?
In this world of ever increasing freedom of information and indeed immediacy of access to information via the internet, many may ask why records are not made publicly available?
Put simply, separation leading to divorce can be one of the most stressful experiences that one can experience, and the courts acknowledge that it is essential to maintain the privacy of those involved so as not to increase the stress and emotional upheaval already involved.