Divorce and the New Pennsylvania Public Access Law

pennsylvania state

Many people are surprised to learn that their divorce files are public record. Although family court case records like divorces are not available to the public online, anyone can go to the courthouse to view and/or copy the documents in your divorce file. In an effort to protect the private, highly sensitive information of citizens, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court enacted a new public access policy, effective January 1, 2018, for all appellate and trial court filings, including the common pleas court where divorce cases are handled. The full policy is available here, but for the typical uncontested divorce, these are the three most important things you need to know:

  1. Don’t forget to sign and date the new Certification located at the end of most divorce documents.
  2. The names and dates of birth of minor children and full financial account numbers must be listed on a Confidential Information Form (CIF) instead of in the divorce papers.
  3. If you and your spouse have a Property Settlement Agreement, file a Confidential Document Form (CDF) with it so your agreement cannot be viewed by the public.

If you create your own divorce papers using DivorceWriter Pennsylvania, you’ll receive documents that include the new Certification, and also a CIF and/or CDF, when applicable.

Certification Form

The parties (and their attorneys if they have them) are responsible for safeguarding information in the documents they file with the courts so under the new public access policy, a Certification section must be included at the end of most divorce documents stating that the document complies with the law. The Certification must be signed by the person filing the document. A sample certification form is available here.

Confidential Information Form

Even before the new policy was enacted, most sensitive information like Social Security and driver’s license numbers was already excluded from divorce papers. Under the new policy though, certain required sensitive information cannot be listed anywhere in your court documents and must instead be listed on a separate Confidential Information Form, or CIF, that you’ll file in your case. The CIF is never made available to the public. When applicable, the following information must be listed on a CIF instead of within a legal document itself:

You can view the full CIF, including the Domestic Abuse addendum, here. (Note: In some counties, the judge may prefer a that, instead of filing a CIF, you file two versions of the document containing the sensitive information—one with the sensitive information showing and one that’s redacted. Only the redacted version is available to the public.)

Confidential Document Form

Unlike the CIF, which is used when sensitive information needs to be redacted from a document, a Confidential Document Form, or CDF, must be filed with certain types of legal documents so that the Court Clerk knows they cannot make that document available to the public. Only the CDF, which identifies the type of document being withheld from public record, is accessible to the public. The following legal documents need to be filed with a CDF: