Warning about Confidential Court Records
Under Section 78A-2-229, distributing non-public court records outside the parties or the court without prior court authorization is contempt of court or a class B misdemeanor.
Court records are classified into different categories, which include public, private, sealed and protected records.
Most justice, district and appellate court records are public. Anyone can see and make copies of public records. Rule of Judicial Administration 4-202.02(2).
Some records are private. Only the parties, their lawyers and a few others can view and copy the record. A few examples of private records include:
- Petition for divorce
- Request for protective order
- Petition for guardianship of an adult
- Motion to waive fees
- Motion to waive divorce waiting period
- Motion for temporary orders in a child custody case
- Victim impact statement
- Medical records
Some records are sealed. In these kinds of cases, even information about the existence of the case is not publicly available. A person seeking access to a sealed record must petition the court for permission to unseal the records. Examples of sealed records include:
Some records are protected. This category includes an attorney's work product, records subject to attorney-client privilege, court security plans and some confidential business records. See Rule of Judicial Administration 4-202.02(5) for a full list.
Juvenile Court Records
The records in juvenile court cases are not public. Those records fall into two categories: social records and legal records. The type of record determines who may access it.
Access to juvenile court social records is allowed for:
- the subject of the record, if 18 years of age or over;
- a parent or guardian of the subject of the record if the subject is an unemancipated minor;
- an attorney or person with power of attorney for the subject of the record;
- a person with a notarized release from the subject of the record or the subject's legal representative dated no more than 90 days before the date the request is made;
- the subject of the record's therapists and evaluators;
- a self-represented litigant, a prosecuting attorney, a defense attorney, a Guardian ad Litem, and an Attorney General involved in the litigation in which the record is filed;
- a governmental entity charged with custody, guardianship, protective supervision, probation or parole of the subject of the record including juvenile probation, Division of Child and Family Services and Juvenile Justice Services;
- the Department of Human Services, school districts and vendors with whom they or the courts contract (who shall not permit further access to the record), but only for court business;
- court personnel, but only to achieve the purpose for which the record was submitted;
- a governmental entity with which the record is shared under Rule 4-202.10;
- the person who submitted the record;
- anyone by court order.
See Utah Rule of Judicial Administration 4-202.03(5) for a complete list.
Access to juvenile court legal records is allowed for:
- all who may access the juvenile court social record;
- a law enforcement agency;
- a children's justice center;
- a public or private agency providing services to the subject of the record or to the subject's family; and
- the victim of a delinquent act may access the disposition order entered against the defendant.
Cases with Public and Private Records
In some cases, there will be a mixture of public and private records. Anyone can see that a case has been filed, and anyone can view the docket of the case to see a list of things that have happened. Access to the records themselves, however, will depend on whether the document is public or private. Examples of cases in which there will be a mixture of public and private records include:
- Child Custody and Support
- Legal sex changes (including cases with both name and sex changes)
- Protective Orders
- Stalking Injunctions
In these kinds of cases, the petitions and other pleadings are private records, but the orders of the court are public records.
Information in Court Records that is Private
Some pieces of information in an otherwise-public record are not public. Examples include personal identifying information such as:
- Social Security number
- Driver's license number
- Bank account number
- Child's name and date of birth (except a child's name will be appear on a protective order or civil stalking injunction, which are public documents)
- Address, phone, and email of a non-party
It is the responsibility of the person filing the document to make sure that non-public information is not included in a public document. See the Substitute Information for Non-Public Information section of this page for more information.
The courts began making most public records available online through a subscription to the XChange database in April 2011. See the Court Records web page for more information about where to find court records.
For a complete list of public and non-public records, see Rule of Judicial Administration 4-202.02.
The following may access a private court record:
- a party or attorney for a party;
- an interested person to an action under the Uniform Probate Code;
- the person who submitted the record;
- the subject of the record or their attorney, or the parent or guardian of the subject of the record if the subject is an unemancipated minor or under a legal incapacity, or a person with a notarized release from the subject of the record.
So, for example, the petitioner and respondent and their lawyers can view and copy the court records in their case, even if they are private. And, in a petition to appoint a guardian or conservator, the interested persons—anyone entitled to notice of the petition—also can view and copy the private court records.
Even private records are usually available to the parties in a case. Sometimes, if it is necessary to protect a person's personal safety, a person can keep their contact information from the other party. Contact information includes residential address, phone number, and email address.
The person asking to safeguard their contact information must request this, and it is authorized only for documents related to:
- a protective order - Utah Code Section 78B-7-109(3)
- a stalking injunction - Utah Code Section 78B-7-701(2)
- a parentage order - Utah Code Section 62A-11-304.4(5)
- a custody order - Utah Code Section 78B-13-209(5) (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act)
- a support order - Utah Code Section 78B-14-312 (Uniform Interstate Family Support Act)
The party's contact information must still be filed with the court, and it may need to be shared with a constable or deputy sheriff for serving papers, or with other governmental agencies. The information is not shared with the public or the other party except in the circumstances described in the statutes.
The person filing a document must make sure they did not include any non-public information. See Code of Judicial Administration Rule 4-202.09(10).
A filer preparing a document from scratch or completing a court form must leave out any non-public information. A document prepared apart from the court process that happens to contain non-public information must be redacted so the non-public information can't be read. For example, a copy of a tax return filed with the court should have the social security number blacked out.
Cases in the Utah Supreme Court or Utah Court of Appeals are governed by a specific rule about non-public information. If a filing, including an addendum, contains non-public information, the filer must also file a public version with all such information removed. Utah Rule of Appellate Procedure 21(h) requires the filer to file an un-redacted version for the court and a version for the public that does not contain the confidential information.
Court staff will not redact non-public information on behalf of the filer.
Sometimes a statute or rule will require that you provide non-public information to the court. For example, the name of a child is private, but in a petition for divorce it is necessary to identify the child for purposes of custody, parent-time and support. Rule 4-202.09(9) permits you to include substitute information for some common pieces of private information.
If non-public information is required, include in the public document only the following substitute information:
- social security number: last four digits
- financial or other account number: last four digits
- driver's license number: state of issuance and last four digits
- address of a non-party: city, state and zip code
- date of birth of non-party: month and year of birth
- minor's name: initials
You may still have to provide the court with the non-public information, and you should do so on a separate document. The courts have 4 forms, listed below for providing some of the more common pieces of non-public information to the court in a confidential manner.
When you file a non-public record, identify it as such for the judicial services representative. That will help ensure that the document is properly classified and not mistakenly made available to the public.
If the non-public information in a document is so pervasive that it cannot conveniently be redacted, or if filing the non-public information is the primary purpose of the document, file a motion to classify the record as private (or protected). See Rule 4-202.04.
Do not confuse this with asking the court to "seal" the record. Sealed records are rare, such as adoption records and expunged criminal records. Private and protected records are kept secure from public view, but a sealed record is physically sealed, and no one, not even a party, can view or copy the record without a court order. See Rule 4-202.02(3), Rule 4-202.03(2), and Rule 4-205(4).
(Required for parentage or child support)
(Required if necessary to identify a minor)
(Required if a person is permitted to safeguard a residential address from the other party)
- Rule 4-202. Purpose.
- Rule 4-202.01. Definitions.
- Rule 4-202.02. Records classification.
- Rule 4-202.03. Records access.
- Rule 4-202.04. Request to access a record associated with a case; request to classify a record associated with a case.
- Rule 4-202.05. Request to access an administrative record; research; request to classify an administrative record; request to create an index.
- Rule 4-202.06. Response to request to access or classify a court record.
- Rule 4-202.07. Appeals.
- Rule 4-202.08. Fees for records, information, and services.
- Rule 4-202.09. Miscellaneous.
- Rule 4-205. Security of court records.
- Utah Rule of Appellate Procedure 21(g). Non-public information in appellate cases.