Can I Keep My Divorce Details Private in WI?
Many Divorce Documents Remain Public, Some Do Not
There are few experiences more painful and personal than divorce. This legal process can require you to reveal intimate details about your marriage, finances, relationship with your children. If you are like most people in Wisconsin (and throughout the US), you probably would prefer to keep this kind of personal information out of a public forum, raising the question: Can I keep my divorce details private in WI?
What is Recognized as Confidential in WI -
- Documents related to paternity and children's court cases
- Info regarding substance abuse and mental health
- Documents covering protective services and placement cases
- Presentence investigation reports
- Family financial disclosures
- Confidential petition addendum forms (disclosing social security numbers and birth dates)
- Anything sealed under Wisconsin Statute 801.21
What is Recognized as Public Info in Divorce Proceedings in WI - And does it matter?
Outside of being presented with a compelling reason to redact or seal your records, most of the other case documents from your divorce will remain public. Realistically, it’s unlikely very many people would have a reason to go out of their way to visit the clerk’s office to see your divorce pleadings and documents. Additionally, clerk’s records do not typically contain things like trial or hearing transcripts. These documents would have to be paid for and prepared by the court reporter at the request of those involved in the case. Further, when you use processes such as divorce mediation and collaborative divorce, exchanges and negotiations between the parties are confidential, so there are minimal court records involved.
Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is a trained divorce attorney, collaborative Attorney, and Mediator operating in Brookfield, WI. She has extensive experience assisting clients before, during, and after divorce cases, and will help you understand your options and find the right resources.
Wisconsin Divorce - What information is publicly disclosed, and what can be done?
When a party files for divorce in Wisconsin, they must file certain disclosures and provide detailed information about themselves for the court. Although most information will be on record, Wisconsin law provides that certain financial data is protected and redacted from the court documents. This includes social security numbers, employer and tax identification numbers, financial account numbers, licenses, and passport numbers. Only the parties, their counsel, and the judge can see the actual identifying information.
According to Section 801.20 of the Wisconsin Statutes, certain types of documents from family proceedings such as those for adoption, guardianship, children’s and juvenile justice codes, substance abuse and mental health, and protective services and placement cases are recognized as confidential. Further, presentence investigation reports, family financial disclosures, and confidential petition addendum forms (disclosing social security numbers and birth dates) will be recognized as confidential without a motion.
Under Wisconsin Statute 801.21, parties to a case can file a motion to seal and redact specific other information if they feel the contents are sensitive. The court can consider a motion to seal or redact and decide whether to grant them according to applicable constitutional, statutory, and common law.
Aside from these statutory provisions, Wisconsin divorce case filings are considered public records except for paternity and children's court cases, which are confidential because they focus on minor children. While some information can be accessed online through the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP), most of the documents in a divorce case have to be obtained in person through county clerks' offices.