Sealing divorce records in Georgia: two recent case examples

Two recent divorce cases from Richmond County underscore that, while shielding information regarding divorces in Georgia is not common, the details concerning dissolution can and sometimes are sealed by a judge and not privy to the public eye.

Not often, though, with divorce information in most instances being considered a matter of public record.

“It’s really uncommon,” says an attorney involved with one of the Richmond County cases. He states that the case is the first of approximately 2,500 divorces he has handled in which the judge has ordered certain information disclosed in the divorce proceeding to be sealed and withheld from the public.

Such a determination often involves a judicial weighing process that pits the right of the general public to have open access to information that is deemed of legitimate benefit or public interest versus a person’s privacy interests. Georgia case law accords judges “extremely broad discretion” in assessing those interests when they are in strong competition.

Sometimes the court will find compelling reasons to seal a record. In one of the recently sealed cases, a divorcing couple was alleged to have provided alcohol to and subsequently sexually assaulted a minor. The judge in that case ordered that the complaint be closed to public scrutiny.

In the other case, the court ordered that financial information be kept under wraps until the divorce proceeding is finalized. In that matter, one of the parties — a public servant — argued that, notwithstanding his public status, certain private and embarrassing facts related to his dissolution have no legitimate public interest and that his authority could be “compromised by virtue of having a contested divorce played out in the public arena.”

An experienced Fulton County family law firm can respond to questions and concerns relating to any divorce-related matter, including the disclosure of information regarding property division, child custody, child support or other issues.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle, “Richmond County has 2 recent high-profile sealed divorce cases,” Kyle Martin, April 1, 2012

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