Access to Sealed Records
General Rule 22
governs access to family law and guardianship court records, whether the records are maintained in paper or electronic form. The policy of the courts is to facilitate public access to court records, provided that such access will not present an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy, will not permit access to records or information defined by law or court rule as confidential, sealed, exempted from disclosure, or otherwise restricted from public access, and will not be unduly burdensome to the ongoing business of the courts.
Generally, all court records are open to the public for inspection and copying upon request. (The Clerk will assess fees for copies.) Public access is restricted to certain documents, some of which are listed below:
- Confidential Information Form
- Sealed Financial Source Documents (documents filed under the Sealed Financial Source Cover Sheet such as income tax returns, W-2s and schedules, wage stubs, credit card statements, financial institution statements, check registers, as well as other financial information sealed by court order)
- Sealed Personal Health Care Records (records related to the physical or mental health of an individual or which involve genetic parentage testing)
- Retirement Plan Orders
- Notice of Intent to Relocate
- Vital Statistics form (collected by the clerk and forwarded to the State of Washington Department of Health)
- Law Enforcement Information form (collected by the clerk and forwarded to local law enforcement)
- Foreign Protection Order Information form (collected by the clerk and forwarded to local law enforcement)
- Detailed portions of certain family law and guardianship reports such as parenting evaluations, domestic violence, risk assessments and CPS reports, sexual abuse evaluations, and guardian ad litem reports. - See GR 22 for specific details.
The parties may stipulate in writing to allow access to the public to any files or records otherwise restricted under GR 22. Any person may file a motion, supported by an affidavit showing good cause, for access to any restricted document. Written notice of the motion shall be provided to all parties in the manner required by court rule. The court shall allow access to restricted documents, or relevant portions of restricted documents, if the court finds that the public interests in granting access or the personal interest of the person seeking access outweigh the privacy interests of the parties or dependent children. If the court grants access to restricted documents, the court may enter such orders as necessary.