Whether you are completing a background investigation or motivated by pure curiosity, viewing divorce records can lead you to useful information. And, like most court records, divorce files are usually public. So how do you look up divorce records? That depends on the jurisdiction where the divorce was granted. Some states and/or counties maintain online databases that give access to court files. Others will require you to pay a visit to the records department of the court where the divorce was litigated.
Look Up Divorce Records Free
In this country, most court records are open to the public, and divorce cases are included. But not every document in every case is necessarily open for viewing. While the general rule is that these documents are public, courts can and do seal certain divorce documents and even entire cases if a proper showing is made. The person seeking to seal the records has to show that the privacy interests outweigh the public right to know. Records of child custody matters and information about victims of sexual abuse are typical of the types of records that courts keep private. The vast majority of divorce documents are public record.
Any member of the public can review public documents, and sometimes the state or county involved makes it easy by allowing online access. However, there is no guarantee that this will be the case for the divorce you are interested in. Before you dive into your search, pull together as much information as you can about the divorce. You'll obviously want the names of the parties, the date of the divorce, the state where the divorce was granted, and, ideally, the county court involved and the divorce case number. You'll have an easier time tracking down the records with these divorce details.
Visiting the Courthouse
The surest method of gaining access to divorce records for free involves a visit to the courthouse. Call before you go to find out business hours, and arrive with all the details of the case you gathered. Give the clerk the data and ask to review the court file. Often, cubicles or tables are provided, so you can sit down with the file and go through it. If you need a copy of a particular document, the clerk will arrange it for you for a small fee.
If you live on the far side of the country, a visit to the courthouse might not be possible. Although you can generally order copies of a divorce decree from the court, this is not a free service. You're better off going online first to see if there is a database you can access.
How to Look Up Divorce Records Online?
Some states and counties offer online databases of divorce records, while others do not. One easy way to find out is to call the court clerk in the courthouse involved and ask. Another way is to simply go online and search the state judicial website, followed by the county's court system website t, determine what is available.
What about using one of the many websites that offer to run your search for you? While some might offer viable, free services, others don't. As long as you don't give a site your credit card or personal information, you may not be at great risk.
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- Be sure to have the correct spelling of the parties involved. That will make searching for the case number easier.
- According to Attorney Marketing blog, divorce records are free but there may be a nominal search fee levied.
- Certified copies cost more than regular copies.
- Certified copies can only be obtained at the Superior Court clerk's office in the county where the divorce was granted.
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.