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Are Massachusetts Divorce Records Public?

Posted by Stephen McDonough | Jun 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

Just divorced on car
Maybe you don’t want your divorce to be this public…

After a divorce, you may not want the whole world to know about it. So are your divorce records public?

The majority of records in Massachusetts are considered public, unless they can be held under specifically stated exemptions. These exemptions are created by the legislature, and in such cases an attorney has to prove that the exemption applies to the specified record and the reason the record should be kept private.

These exemptions come in two categories: statute and implication. Records that are exempt from disclosure by statue are covered when a federal or state statue directly states that a certain kind of record should not be disclosed.

The other category that falls under an exemption is a record that is considered to be exempt by necessary implication. This limits the access to records of particular individuals or entities.

Most records, such as divorce, birth, bankruptcy, and foreclosure, are all public.

How to Access Divorce Records

In the past, obtaining a copy of public records would have required you to take a trip to the local courthouse, but today most records can be looked up with a few searches online.

Finding divorce records for any case in Massachusetts from 1952 until the present is as easy as going to the online case search and entering some basic information about the person about whom you are inquiring. Any divorce records that can't be found through this search can be obtained by phone or mail.

The Pros and Cons of Divorce Records Being Public

There are a number of reasons that making divorce records public could be beneficial. For example you to want to make sure your fiancée is not legally married to someone else. But there are also reasons that some divorcees would like such records to be private, such as:

  • A child's identity that needs to be protected, such as cases of child molestation
  • Someone is looking to do you harm
  • Cases where sensitive information needs to be guarded
  • In cases of domestic violence
  • Cases in which proprietary business information needs to be protected from public view
  • Important health information concerning you or a family

Can I Seal My Divorce Records?

While the cases above are considered to be more serious, there are instances where you may want your information to be sealed because it may cause embarrassment. Whatever your reasoning you will need to petition the court to seal your divorce records if they are to be kept private.

In many of the above cases, especially those which involve children or violence, the court may agree to seal your divorce record in the interest of security. However, the court does reserve the right to decline to seal your divorce records, and will likely do so if your reasoning is not sound or based on a true need.

About the Author

Stephen McDonough

Stephen works closely with clients facing divorce or other family conflict. He is a certified mediator through the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation, a designation that only about 11% of mediators have obtained. In addition to providing mediation services, Stephen regularly appears in...

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