Are Divorce Records Really Public in Michigan?

If you want your divorce records to be sealed by the court, you have to convince the Judge it’s necessary!

We live in a time when the issue of privacy is very big, and people have very strong feelings on the subject. One the one hand, we tend to ‘live out loud’ online, sharing everything from our moment-to-moment thoughts and feelings, to all of our meals, purchases, and vacation destinations. And yet, for all that sharing, people tend to feel very angry when they believe that information about their lives was shared without their consent, or their knowledge. 

We tend to share the ‘good’ in life, and hide the ‘bad’

When you stop and think about it, it makes sense. People are excited to share things they love, things they feel passionate about, and things that make them look good. They’re a lot less thrilled at the prospect of sharing things that might make them look bad, or that other people could use as emotional ammunition against them. And nothing comes closer to that description for many people, than a divorce!

So are divorce records public in Michigan?

For those of you who are sticklers for your privacy, you’re probably not going to like the answer to that question. Divorce records (just like marriage, birth and death records) are a matter of public record in Michigan. While the chances are that most people aren’t going to be nearly as interested in your divorce as that of Brad and Angelina, or some other celebrity couple whose parting of ways makes headlines for months, that doesn’t change the fact that the details of your divorce are up for grabs, if people know where to look.

So what can you do if you want to keep your divorce details private?

In Michigan, if you want to keep your divorce details private, you’ll have to  demonstrate “good cause” that your reputation, relationships, privacy, or employment will be negatively impacted by that information being publicly available. In order to do that, your attorney will need to file a motion to seal records, along with an affidavit that explains why it’s necessary to keep your records private. Specifically, you have to file paperwork with the court, explaining to the Judge why you want your divorce records kept private. Because in the end, it’s the Judge who will make that decision.

Why would you want your divorce records sealed?

For some, the desire to keep their divorce details private is based in the idea that “it’s no one else’s business”, and we’re sorry to tell you that we’ve never met a Judge who’s likely to agree with that. (Like we said – you have to demonstrate “good cause”). So what counts as a good cause? Well, if one partner, or the family’s children were subject to domestic or sexual abuse that led to the divorce, a Judge is likley to agree to seal those records to protect the victims. Another reason could be an affair that ended the marriage, but that fact could impact a person’s job, especially if they work in a religious capacity. (But remember, one thing that always remains private is a Social Security Number. Courts are not allowed to keep any documents in a public file that provide a SSN.)

If you want your divorce kept private, talk to your attorney

Getting divorced can be a painful and invasive process. You end up having to share a lot of private details with your attorney, the court, and whoever else happens to be standing in the courtroom that day. But if your divorce is messy, or includes information that could harm you or your children in the future discuss this with your experienced family law attorney. We can help you petition the court to have your records sealed and protect your privacy during this difficult time.