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Protecting your information in Probate and Family Court

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Created February 2021

When you submit forms and papers in your court case, a court clerk approves your papers and puts them in your case file. Case files and hearings are open to the public. Anyone can view a case file. The information inside that file is not private.

But some papers are not public. They do not go in your case file. Papers that are not public are:

  • your Financial Statement,
  • Guardian ad Litem reports, and
  • your Plaintiff’s Confidential Information Form in 209A and 258E cases. The court keeps the form separate from the rest of your case file and it is not available to the defendant or the public.

Sometimes, you need the court to keep other information or papers private so you can be safe. If you need the court to keep this information private, you can ask the judge to “impound” it.

The information you ask to keep private must be information that might harm you if the other side or the public can see it. This could be:

  • your home address, workplace address, or phone number.
  • parts of your case file, like financial documents and medical records. Or,
  • your entire court file, including all documents and information in the file.

The court can keep all this information from the public. It can also protect this information from court staff who do not need it to do their jobs. But the court can only keep some information from the other side in your case.

The court can protect the addresses where the other side might find you or your children, your phone number and email addresses. But the other side has the right to see all the other documents you give to the court. Even if the court impounds the documents so the public cannot see it, the other side can see documents like affidavits, financial documents, and medical records.

Note

All hearings on family matters and restraining orders are open to the public and recorded

Courts use a special form for impounding information in 209A Restraining Order and 258E Harassment Protection Order cases. See Protecting my Information in 209A and 258E cases

Important

If you need to use a completely different address, you may need the Address Confidentiality Program

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