Divorce and Sealing Court Documents

At the Orange County Law Office of David P Schwarz we have litigated complex cases during divorces where one party makes a request to seal court documents based on the sensitive nature of the case. Please contact our office at 949 735 9266 or via the web. We can also be reached by email at dpslaw66@gmail.com.

A Divorce lawyer will adequately defend against any unnecessary sealing of court records. Unless confidentiality is required by law, court records are presumed to be open to the public. Therefore, pleadings, motions, discovery documents, and other papers may not be filed under seal merely by stipulation of the parties. A prior court order must be obtained.

The judge who ordered the sealing (or a judge to whom the case is subsequently assigned) may order sealed documents unsealed.

With Discovery motions The criteria and procedures for sealing records do not apply to discovery motions.

A divorce attorney will most probably gather sufficient information to draft a motion to seal court documents. A written motion or application is required, accompanied by points and authorities and declarations stating facts supporting the findings required for a sealing. A moving party must present “specific enumeration of the facts sought to be withheld and specific reasons for withholding them”

Admissible evidence is required to support a sealing motion; generally, declarations of counsel relating to trade secrets or other overriding interest to justify sealing are inadmissible hearsay.

At the Orange County Law Office of David P Schwarz we have been part of mutual agreements to seal documents. Parties sometimes operate under an informal arrangement pursuant to which documents are “deemed filed under seal” unless an objection is made. Such an arrangement “is entirely inconsistent with the mandatory requirements of rules….. and the constitutional values informing those requirements.”

A Divorce lawyer will make sure that a motion to seal records in actions pending before a temporary judge or referee must be heard by the trial judge to whom the case is assigned; or, if no trial judge has been assigned, by the presiding judge or the presiding judge's designee.

The documents at issue must be lodged with the clerk, in a separate envelope sealed and labeled “CONDITIONALLY UNDER SEAL” if lodged in paper form. If transmitted electronically, a cover sheet must be affixed to the electronic transmission indicating they are subject to a motion to file the documents under seal.

Some judges appreciate the lodging of a document that shows the proposed redactions to the publicly filed document in context, such as by red-lining. Also, consider filing the motion to seal before the underlying motion; if the sealing request is denied and the materials are withdrawn as a result, the record for the underlying motion may differ.

At the Orange County Law Office of David P Schwarz we have a lot of experience litigating sealed document cases. Please contact our office at 949 735 0266 or via the web. We can also be reached by email at dpslaw66@gmail.com.

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