Divorce is difficult enough—you don’t want to have to worry about whether the intimate details of your personal life are available to anyone as a result of the process. No one wants their private life to end up as public knowledge, especially when allegations of financial misuse, adultery, or abuse are involved. You deserve privacy, and it’s normal to want to avoid having the details of your marriage and separation affect your professional life or how others view you.
In the state of New Jersey, a divorce settlement is a public record, so it’s possible that a third party could access a copy of your divorce certificate or divorce decree. However, that doesn’t mean that your neighbor or coworker can look up your court records on a whim.
If you’re concerned about the details of your divorce settlement becoming a source of neighborhood conversation, here’s what you need to know.
Why are New Jersey divorce records public?
In 2002, the New Jersey state legislature passed the Open Public Records Act, which made records associated with dissolution cases—also known as divorce cases—available to the public. Under the act, court records, including divorce decrees and divorce certificates, become a matter of public record once dissolution cases are finalized.
Which court records become a matter of public record?
Not all court records become public records, and even when a matter becomes so, not all information within the relevant documents may be disclosed. In New Jersey, your divorce decree or judgment or divorce records could potentially be made available.
Your Judgment of Divorce divorce
Your Judgment of Divorce is a document stamped with the Seal of the Superior Court and generally contains identification from the court verifying it as “verified” or “certified.”. It acts as “proof” of your divorce. For example, you must present this document at the Social Security office if you want to change your name after a divorce.
Your divorce judgment contains basic information related to your divorce case, including:
- County of venue
- Docket number
- Date of the Judgment of Divorce
- Your name including resumption of maiden name when applicable
- Your ex-spouse’s name
Because your divorce judgment is not as detailed as your divorce agreement (or findings of fact after a trial), it can be more easily obtainable by the general public.
Your divorce decree (or Settlement Agreement)
A divorce decree is generally a multi-page, official court document incorporated into the final judgment that outlines the final terms of a divorce case. It identifies the reason for the divorce and the parties involved, including you, your former spouse, and your children if you have them. It also includes statements to verify that your divorce complies with New Jersey state law.
The document generally includes details of your divorce settlement, such as:
- Division of marital property including debts and liabilities
- Child custody arrangements
- Parenting time schedule
- Child support
- Spousal support
Complete divorce records
Your complete divorce record may contain additional sensitive information from court records.
This sensitive information includes:
- Testimony about extramarital affairs or substance abuse if there were sworn statements on the record or in certifications
- Medical records
- Financial records
- Financial contributions to the marriage
- Allegations of child abuse or domestic violence
These more detailed court records are often difficult—but not impossible—for the general public to obtain.
Is any information withheld from the public record?
Yes! The New Jersey Open Public Records Act includes a provision that states that the court must redact certain information prior to making records available to the public.
The information that must be redacted before being released are known as “personal identifiers” and include:
- Credit card numbers
- Social Security numbers
- Phone numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Abuse victims’ identities and addresses
Keep in mind that courts may also place protective orders on sensitive information, such as drug test results, substance abuse evaluations, or custody evaluations.
How to access New Jersey state divorce records
Although your divorce judgment and divorce decree (agreement) are considered public records, they’re not readily accessible to anyone via a quick online search. Nor can someone simply walk into any family court of New Jersey and view them on demand.
Where are court records about divorce cases stored?
Divorce records are securely stored in the County Clerk’s office for several years. Note that each county has its own established process for accessing divorce records before archival. Typically, this involves a fee and an application and often you have to provide an “approved” reason for requesting access (e.g., you’re representing a party or appealing a document).
Learn how to obtain your divorce records from your local County Clerk’s office. Contact the Family Division of the appropriate court or ask a Morristown divorce attorney.
Eventually, divorce records are transferred to the Superior Court of New Jersey Records Center in Trenton, NJ, to be archived. Once your divorce records have been archived, you—or a third party—can view the records by following the court’s standard procedures for accessing copies of court records.
Not sure how or where to get a copy of your divorce settlement? Contact our Morristown divorce attorneys today! At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have extensive experience educating clients about the procedures they should follow after their divorce cases.
Is it possible to seal New Jersey divorce records?
To succeed in sealing your complete divorce record, you must be able to prove that there is reasonable cause to do so. In addition, your spouse must agree that the records should be sealed. If you prefer to keep the details of your divorce private, our Morristown divorce attorneys can help.
Alternatively, your attorney can petition the judge to redact specific sections or portions of your divorce records. For example, you may request the court clerk redact your medical record or an unfounded accusation of drug and alcohol abuse from the divorce records.
Contact a Morristown divorce attorney today
At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related matters. To schedule your initial coordination call to get started, please contact us online or through our Morristown office.