If you go through a divorce, it’s emotional and sometimes financially devastating. You might not even think about it at the time, but your divorce can also become a public record, so if someone is looking up your name online, they might be able to find details of it.

This isn’t a significant issue for some people, but if your divorce includes sensitive or private information, you might not want it to be a public record.

In some cases, you can seal your divorce records, but it requires additional steps.

How Much Information From Your Divorce Is Publicly Available?

There’s not one set answer regarding how much from a divorce is available to the public.

Court records are generally publicly available, but you may feel strange about people you don’t know being able to have access to the personal details of your divorce.

The term “divorce record” is used for various documents relating to a divorce.

Documents that are part of a divorce record include your divorce certificate and divorce decrees. A divorce certificate is an official document from the office in your state that tracks vital records. These certificates have minimal information and might include the parties' names, the address of the court where it was finalized, and the date of the finalization. People may want a copy of a divorce certificate to show proof they’re divorced or to confirm a divorce.

A divorce decree is a court order finalizing it. What’s included in a decree can vary quite a bit. Some rules have a lot of details about divorce. They can include property division, spousal support, child support, and custody. In other cases, they may only have minimal information and could reference another document used to settle the marriage’s terms.

Divorce court records are a collection of all documents filed in a divorce case. These records include recordings of the in-court proceedings and transcripts, so they’re very detailed. These can provide information about why a couple is divorcing, their finances, their personal lives, and their children.

How Accessible Are These Records?

Some states have no restrictions on access to divorce records, and anyone can request a copy. Most conditions, however, limit access to documents, with some types being more accessible than others.

Since a divorce certificate has only minimal details about the situation, it’s typically the easiest to access. The majority of states have few restrictions on who can get a copy of a divorce certificate.

You might have to pay a fee to get a copy, or you might be able to request a copy from the office managing vital records in your state. You might need specific information about the divorce, such as the names of the people involved and the location of the court that decided the case.

Since a divorce decree can have sensitive information about a couple and family, states tend to limit access to only those involved in the divorce and their attorneys. Other people who might be able to access it include individuals who can show a legal interest in the document, like an estate executor.

Most states require you to request a copy of the divorce decree directly from the court that issued it, and you’ll probably have to pay a fee for a certified copy.

Almost every divorce court record is going to have personal information. The states’ rules regarding access vary. Most states require someone who wants access to a divorce court record to request it from the court that decided the divorce, with many courts only giving copies to the parties in the case and their attorneys.

What About Sealing Your Court Record?

Finally, courts automatically black out certain information like Social Security numbers from the public record. If you want to protect anything beyond what’s redacted automatically, at least one spouse will have to request the court seal the record. This is also known as impounding it.

If a court seals a record, it keeps a copy of the document for its uses but puts strict limits on who can view it and make copies. Sealed records aren’t available to the general public.

If you’re going to request to seal your record, you need to include specific reasons why you feel that your privacy concerns outweigh the public’s right to have access to the information.

Courts will often seal documents to keep information about physical or mental health, minor children, abuse, or proprietary business information private.