In an age where records are generally readily available, it is difficult to argue the importance behind establishing protective measures for various records and data. Yet, when such rules impact the efficiency of pursuing claims, such as child support, a common ground needs to be pursued to ensure the process is not waylaid. This is particularly true when custodial and non-custodial parents do not always live in the same state.

A Virginia circuit court has ruled that only citizens of Virginia have the right to access public records from state agencies. The ruling was sparked by a challenge of Virginia's Freedom of Information Act, which forbids individuals from outside the state from public records. The complaint was filed by two non-residents. A man seeking Virginia real estate records and a man who underwent divorce filed for child custody and child support in Virginia but neither live there.

The second man submitted a petition for child support to the Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement, but the agency did not file the petition on his behalf until nine months after it was sent. The man then requested that the agency reveal how it processes child support petitions and explain why the process suffered such a delay. The agency denied the request, explaining that the man was not entitled to the information due to Virginia's Freedom of Information Act.

Along with his co-filer, the man filed a federal complaint in which he claims that the state's Freedom of Information Act constitutes discrimination against him and other non-residents. His co-filer contended that the statute also "violates the dormant commerce clause" because it grants Virginia residents exclusive access to state records, which inhibits his ability to conduct certain forms of business "on substantially equal terms with Virginia citizens."

While the final ruling agreed that the law discriminates against non-residents of Virginia, it explained that such measures are not illegal. A judge wrote that "while the appellants may well be correct that access to public records is of increasing importance in the information age, that assertion misses the salient inquiry."

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Out-of-States Have No Claim to Virginia Files," Rose Bouboushian, Feb. 7, 2012