It's so much easier to review court records when you can find an online database and peruse them from the comfort of your favorite armchair. If you're tracking down divorce filings, that's sometimes possible, sometimes not. Every state has its own rules and procedures governing how to find divorce records, and sometimes jurisdictions within a state also have different search tools.
Getting the Divorce Details
Before you start looking up divorce records online, gather information about the divorce files you're looking for. You'll need the names of the parties, but that's hardly enough to move forward. One of the most important things is to learn where the divorce decree was entered. With almost 900,000 divorces and annulments in the United States every year, you aren't likely to easily find Smith vs. Smith without knowing the state and county in which the divorce was entered.
Other important information to glean includes the date the divorce occurred, at least the year, and, if possible, a case number. That will certainly speed up your search to find divorce records online.
Looking Up Divorce Records Online
If the divorce records you're interested in reviewing are from a jurisdiction that offers online court record access, that's far and away the best place to look. But not every state has the same setup. Sometimes divorce records are found at the state level, but in other places they're found at the county level. Some states offer statewide record access, but in others, counties offer their own databases. In some locations, the courts simply don't offer online access at all.
To find out whether the divorce records you seek are offered online, start at your state's judicial department or family court website. It should tell you how to find divorce documents. Alternatively, find the phone number of the courthouse where your records are located and call. Ask the clerk whether the documents are in an online database and, if so, how to locate the website.
Using Free Databases to Find Divorce Records
If you search for divorce records online, you'll find a multitude of free directories offering public records. Unfortunately, while some of them may be legitimate, others aren't. Many ask you to pay for their services. Others ask you to pay and don't return anything of value. If you're ready to try anything, it's far better to get yourself over to the courthouse in person and ask the clerk to show you the file. It's not online, but you're certain to be able to find what you're looking for without paying a fee.
With a Master's in English, a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's law school, Teo Spengler is up on education. She splits her home time between San Francisco and France. A perpetual student and frequent teacher, she is also a writer and world traveler. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Arizona Central, Fairmont Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites.
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