All across Florida, clerks of court are in the process of making electronic court records available online for public access. Florida is leading the nation in online record sharing; most states’ residents have nowhere near the access to public court records that Florida residents do.
Some records can be viewed anonymously, while other records will require personal information from the viewer. The amount and type of personal information provided by an individual to the clerks determines what records the individual will be able to access online. Once the records are made available later this year, anyone will be able access electronic records anonymously for most criminal and civil cases. To access probate and family court records, individuals will be required to submit a notarized application and get approval from the clerks’ offices in most counties across Florida. In a few counties, individuals will need to pay a subscription fee, but in most counties all that is required is providing information about yourself. The only records not available for public viewing are expunged and sealed records. Applications are automatically rejected if users provide misinformation.
Be careful! Access to public records is no green flag for doing a DIY divorce. You really do need the advice and guidance of an experienced Florida attorney.
There are some other concerns about the new changes. Family law records often include sensitive information such as a family’s finances. Some argue that this makes it easy for an individual to snoop on their neighbors’ divorce records from the comfort of their home, whereas they wouldn’t go to the trouble of going down to the clerk’s office to obtain the same information.
Manatee County was the first to make its records available online, and their program has become a model for other counties. Most counties should have their records available online by the end of the year.
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