New Rule Adopted to Protect Personal Information in Juvenile and Domestic Cases
The Ohio Supreme Court has adopted an amendment to the Rules of Superintendence that would require local courts to protect sensitive personal information contained in the records of juvenile and domestic relations civil proceedings.
The final amendment comes after the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Children and Families received public comment from 20 individuals and associations including the Ohio Association of Domestic Relations Judges, the Ohio Public Defender, and the Ohio Clerk of Courts Association. The new amendment requires each local court, in conjunction with the clerk, to determine the manner by which sensitive documents are designated and maintained.
The amendment, Sup.R. 44(C)(2)(h), will restrict the following sensitive 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 accessible:
- Judgment Entries along with Orders
The protected 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.
The amendment was proposed by the Advisory Committee’s Subcommittee on Family Law Reform Implementation after it 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 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.
Only minor changes were adopted after the comment period that opened in December 2014 and closed in February 2015. The Advisory Committee told the Court the amendment codifies existing Ohio court practices, minimizes the risk of injury to the child, and protects individual privacy rights while balancing judicial accountability and accessibility. It will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
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