The United States has a public court system which means that most court proceedings, including divorce records, are generally open to the public. One of the main reasons court records are kept public is to encourage transparency within the court system.
However, in some cases, judges agree to file divorce records under seal to protect the parties involved. In order to seal divorce records, the potential damage caused by the file being public must outweigh the public’s right to open records, FindLaw.com explains.
In 2012, a family law court agreed to keep the divorce file of an Alabama district court judge under seal after the judge said that “to not seal this file might very well expose the parties and their children to unnecessary danger.”
However, at the time, his ex-wife opposed the sealing of the entire file arguing that the judge, who currently serves on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, simply wanted to avoid his “marital misconduct” being made public.
Earlier this month, a Montgomery County family court judge agreed to unseal the divorce records in the case at the request of a media group in Alabama, where the judge was arrested in August on suspicion of domestic violence charges involving his second wife.
The media group suspected that the sealed divorce records might reveal that the judge had been accused of domestic abuse in the past as well. But after the divorce files were unsealed, there was no evidence affirming this.
Included in the divorce filings was a request for admissions that asked the judge to “admit or deny” statements about extramarital affairs, domestic violence and prescription drug abuse, but there were not any admissions or evidence of wrongdoing.
The file also showed that the divorce was settled shortly after the request to seal the case was granted and the terms of the settlement are private.
Source: Montgomery Advertiser, “Judge Mark Fuller’s 2012 divorce files unsealed,” Brian Lyman, Oct. 20, 2014