Like birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage certificates, divorce records are typically considered public records in Arizona. The ultimate goal is to ensure a transparent court system that’s open to public scrutiny, though this often results in private, possibly embarrassing personal information becoming public record in divorce cases.
Fortunately, it is possible to seal divorce records in some situations. It’s rare for entire divorce proceedings to be sealed, but fairly common for certain aspects to be sealed upon request by one or both divorce parties.
Filing Divorce Records Under Seal in Arizona
Because divorce records are naturally public record, the judge will never take it upon herself to seal divorce records. One or both parties in the divorce case must request that the court seal the divorce records, usually in the form of a Motion to Seal.
Even then, filing a Motion to Seal doesn’t guarantee your divorce records will actually be sealed. It’s ultimately up to the judge to decide whether or not to grant the Motion to Seal. In making their decision, the judge must weigh whether the potential damage to one or both parties outweighs the presumption that court records must be open to public scrutiny.
Furthermore, the judge will need to consider whether the Motion to Seal is narrowly tailored. The court will rarely seal an entire case, but it will agree to seal certain aspects of the official records when the request is narrowly tailored and possesses merit.
Reasons for Sealing Divorce Records in Arizona
There are a number of reasons a judge may decide to seal divorce records. Some common examples include:
- Protecting the identity of children
- Protecting victims of domestic violence
- Keeping sensitive information like bank accounts and social security numbers private
- Protecting proprietary business information
- Preventing the exposure of false allegations that may libelously damage someone
While the court is sensitive to potentially damaging information, details and documents that may lead to public embarrassment don’t necessarily meet the level of harm required to seal court records. In such cases, the needs of a transparent public court system outweigh personal embarrassment.
The Importance of Narrowly Tailored Requests in Arizona
On top of proving potential injury, a Motion to Seal cannot seek to seal more information than absolutely necessary. The request to seal the divorce records must be narrowly tailored to the details that specifically cause personal injury.
For example, a request to seal all of the divorce records in order to protect the couple’s children may be denied, but a request to seal portions of the case that name the children may be approved. Similarly, a wife who has been abused by her husband may not succeed in sealing the entire divorce case, but she should be able to seal portions that related specifically to the abuse. The court may also seal information to protect the wife from future abuse or danger.
When filing a Motion to Seal with the assistance of your family law attorney, start by clearly stating your privacy concern and how you (or the party in question) may be injured by the information becoming public record. Then lay out the specific portions of your divorce case that should be sealed in order to protect the party in question. Avoid blanket requests to seal your divorce records on vague privacy concerns.
Assuming your Motion to Seal is successful, be sure to check the redacted and/or sealed records to ensure the proper documents are affected. It’s rare for a detail to slip through and accidentally become public record, but it certainly happens from time to time.
How Do I Get a Copy of My Divorce Decree in Arizona?
Courts are required to keep divorce decrees on file for at least 7-10 years. If your divorce was finalized in the last 7-10 years, simply visit the court clerk’s office to obtain a copy of your divorce decree. You’ll need identification and your case number, though the clerk may be able to search for the divorce decree by date, party, judge, or attorney if you don’t have the case number.
If the court doesn’t have a copy of your divorce decree, you should be able to find a copy with the county records department or registrar. Alternatively, you can check with the state department of records or registrar.
Don’t feel like dealing with the court or records departments? Try checking with your attorney, or (if possible) your former spouse’s attorney. Attorneys are required by law to maintain records for a certain number of years, so they may have a copy on file.
How to Look Up a Marriage Certificate in Arizona
It’s easy to obtain a copy of a marriage certificate in Arizona. Simply contact the Superior Court clerk in the county where the marriage license was originally issued. Your request should include the following information:
- The full names of both spouses at the time of marriage
- The month, day, and year of marriage
- The city, county, and state where the couple was married
- The purpose for which you need a copy of the marriage certificate
- Your relationship to the married persons listed on the marriage certificate
- Your contact information
Are Marriage Records Public in Arizona?
Marriage licenses and certificates are public records. As such, they are available to anyone upon request. In Arizona, you can obtain copies of marriage records from the Clerk of Court of the Superior Court that issued the original marriage license. You may also use online fee-for-service providers to obtain records on your behalf.
How Can You Find Out If Someone is Married in Arizona?
Short of hiring a private investigator, it can be challenging to find out if someone is married. You can request a copy of the individual’s marriage certificate from the Superior Court Clerk, but you’d have to know (or at least suspect) which Arizona county issued the marriage license. To that end, it may be beneficial to check local newspapers for wedding announcements.
How to Obtain Marriage Records in Maricopa County
Whether you’re looking for a copy of your own marriage record or searching for a family member’s vital records, it’s easy to obtain marriage records in Maricopa County. Simply contact the clerk’s office for the Superior Court of Maricopa County, pay the associated fees, and be prepared to show identification.
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