The simple answer is that only one document in your divorce files is available to the public: the Decree Absolute. The rest of the documents remain confidential between the parties, their representatives and the Court.
Is a divorce application public?
Within divorce proceedings, the most contested document potentially is the divorce application (divorce petition). This is the initial document that is lodged at Court to commence the divorce proceedings.
The reason why one or both parties may be concerned about this entering the public domain is because of the level of private information it can detail.
If, for example, the divorce is based on one party’s unreasonable behaviour or adultery, the divorce application will contain examples of this behaviour (there are typically 3 -5 specific examples in a petition) or alleged adultery (i.e. when this took place).
Regardless of whether one party accepts these reasons or not, this is certainly not something you would want to be accessed by the public. It contains private details concerning the breakdown of the marriage and, quite rightly, should remain confidential.
The remainder of the documents issued within the divorce proceedings will simply refer to the alleged fact of one parties’ ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or ‘adultery’ and who that party is but will not give further details of this.
Is a Decree Absolute public?
The Decree Absolute, the final order in the divorce proceedings which brings the marriage to an end legally, is the only publicly available document.
This confirms the court details, names of both parties, the date and place they got married, the fact upon which the divorce application is based, the date of the Decree Nisi and the date of the Decree Absolute.
Importantly, it doesn’t give any further details for the breakdown of the marriage, the specific examples of behaviour/ adultery or any arrangements for children or finances.
You can obtain a copy of a Decree Absolute online in the same way that you can obtain copies of birth certificates, death certificates etc.
Ideally, you need to give specific details on the divorce to obtain this but even without this, you can ask the court to search their records over a ten-year period.
Get in touch
If you would like further advice on whether divorce files are public or other family law issues please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here.