A frequent concern raised by clients in divorce proceedings is whether they will be able to keep the details of their divorce confidential. Divorce cases are legal proceedings and therefore any documents filed with the court are part of the public record. Judges are reluctant to seal divorce files even in high-profile cases. As a result, anything filed will be accessible to the public, including documents containing personal and financial details, as well as allegations made by one spouse against the other, even if not proven to be true.

Until recently in Cook County, to obtain the documents from a divorce case file, you would need to go to the Clerk’s office and request to view the file in person. However, this past year the Cook County Clerk’s Office has implemented a new website where all the filings are now accessible online at www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org. This allows easy access to anyone who may want to view and/or publish these filings. Another concern is that these documents are now much more accessible to children of the parties who are frequently the subject of motions before the Court.

Covid has forced most divorce court proceedings to be conducted on video services such as Zoom. Because the proceedings are public many courtrooms are also streaming live on YouTube allowing anyone to watch divorce court in the comfort of their own homes.

There are ways to address these issues. Parties may request or agree upon a protective order in their case which limits what documents and information may be filed with the Court. In such case, protected information can still be utilized as evidence but will not be in the public record. Also, the parties may request the final divorce agreement be incorporated “by reference only.” This means that although the file will contain the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, the specific details of the settlement will not be filed with the Court.

Finally, confidentiality issues have made processes like Collaborative Divorce and mediation more popular in the past decade. Both focus on reaching an agreement outside of Court without the need for filing motions with the Court.


Shana L. Vitek, Partner

For more information on Ms. Vitek, please visit: www.beermannlaw.com/team/shana-l-vitek