New Rule Proposed For Keeping Highly Personal Information Confidential in Juvenile and Domestic Cases
The Ohio Supreme Court will accept public comments until February 20, 2015, on an amendment to the Rules of Superintendence that would require courts to treat sensitive personal information contained in the records of juvenile and domestic relations civil proceedings as confidential.
The proposed rule comes after the recommendation of the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Children and Families that confidential family information in these civil proceedings should be placed in a separate family file and the information remain only accessible by the parties in the case.
The proposed amendment, Sup.R. 44(C)(2)(h) , would restrict the following documents from public access by not defining them as a “case document”:
- Health care records
- Drug and alcohol reports
- Guardian ad litem reports
- Home investigation reports
- Evaluations and reports relating to child custody, allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, parenting time, companionship and visitation
- Domestic violence assessments, not including petitions for civil protection orders or criminal charges in another court
- Supervised parenting time, companionship, visitation or exchange information
- Financial records and disclosure statements
- Asset appraisals and evaluations
The following records in these proceedings will remain open public records:
- Judgment Entries along with Orders
The restricted information would be accessible only to parties and their legal representatives in these proceedings. Analogous to the way records in civil commitment proceedings in probate court are treated, clerks of court would continue to enter each document on the docket to maintain the integrity of the case record, however, non-parties will not have access to sensitive family information that relates to health, abuse, financial, and familial history. Each local court, in conjunction with the clerk, would determine the manner by which those confidential documents are designated and maintained.
The Advisory Committee’s Subcommittee on Family Law Reform Implementation researched practices in other states, surveyed Ohio courts on the current treatment of family information, and conferred with professionals in juvenile and domestic relations law. The rule amendment mirrors the recommendations of the Ohio Task Force on Family Law and Children and the Supreme Court’s Report and Recommendations on Family Law Reform. These reports can be found on the Supreme Court’s website.
The proposed rule codifies existing Ohio court practices, minimizes the risk of injury to the child, and protects individual privacy rights while balancing judicial accountability and accessibility.
Comments should be submitted in writing to:
Stephanie Nelson, manager, Children & Families Section
Supreme Court of Ohio
65 South Front Street, Sixth Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215-3431
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