Readers who pay attention to pop culture have perhaps been following the ongoing divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Earlier this week, it was reported that Brad Pitt was denied a request to seal custody documents in the case, and that the request was actually denied. The case has been a particularly contentious one, and has involved allegations of abuse.
Sealing child custody documents is to make them unavailable to the public. Ordinarily, divorce records are open to the public. The purpose of keeping records open to the public is to ensure the courts are transparent to ensure public confidence in the court system. Michigan, like other states, does allow a party to seal records for good cause, though.
Various requirements must be met to successfully seal court records in a divorce case. First of all, a written motion identifying the specific interest the party wishes to protect must be filed—the court may not seal records of its own accord. The court must also make a finding of good cause specifying the grounds for granting or denying the motion, and this must be done in writing or on the record.
The following requirements and rules also apply: any persons who have an interest in the sealing of court records must be allowed a hearing on the matter; the records in question must be sealed until the court makes the decision; and court orders and opinions may not be sealed. There are a couple other technical requirements that must be met as well.
Those who feel they may have a good reason to have their divorce records sealed should work with an experienced attorney to ensure they have the best possible representation in court.
Source: Michigan Supreme Court, Memorandum RE: Sealing Records Pursuant to MCR 8.119(I)