How to Search for a Divorce by Case Number
By Jessica Zimmer
Updated December 24, 2019
A party can search for divorce records from a recent case online on the website of the court that heard the case. You can also search in person at a public computer terminal in the courthouse. Call or mail the court to request records. You may have to complete a request form and pay a fee for this service. The court may charge an additional fee for a certified copy.
Other Ways to Get Divorce Records
In some areas, you may be able to email the court with a request. Courts usually archive divorce records over 10 years old. You should request older divorce records from the court’s archives department. An older document may be called a historic court record.
If you were represented by an attorney, you can request a copy of divorce records from your former attorney. Provide the attorney with your current name, your previous name, the name of your former spouse and the date of the divorce. State laws vary as to how long attorneys must keep records of prior clients. Florida has a six-year retention period, for example, while New York has a seven-year retention period.
Read More: How to Get Copies of Divorce Records
Why Do I Need Divorce Records?
You usually need a divorce decree if you want to remarry. A state or county may require a copy of the divorce decree to issue a new marriage license. The divorce decree ensures the divorce was legal and complete. Also, before a judge finalizes a divorce, the state may require the divorcing parties to wait a certain amount of time. California has a waiting period of six months.
You usually need divorce records if you want to review orders in the divorce case. You also need divorce records to address concerns regarding your attorney’s representation. Divorce records contain a court’s orders regarding spousal support, child custody and attorney fees. You should look these over before requesting that the court modify its orders.
What Is a Divorce Decree?
A divorce decree is a court’s final ruling that terminates the marriage. This document is approved and signed by a judge. A divorce decree also can be called a final divorce decree, a dissolution decree or a certificate of divorce absolute. The divorce decree is final when the court clerk enters the judgment into the court records. Some states have a waiting period to allow time for an appeal before the judge signs the judgment.
State laws vary as to who may obtain a divorce decree. In Oregon, divorce decrees are available for public inspection unless they have been sealed by court order.
What Is a Divorce Certificate?
A divorce certificate is a document issued by the state to confirm two parties were divorced on a certain date. It contains the names of the parties and the date and location that the marriage ended. The office that issues a divorce certificate varies by state. In Oregon, a divorce certificate is issued by the state registrar. In Alabama, the divorce certificate is issued by the state department of health.
States have different rules as to who may obtain a divorce certificate. You should do an online search for your particular state to see which agency issues a divorce certificate. Then, simply read the rules to see if you can request this document.
What About Child Support Records?
Child support records are usually kept separately from divorce records. This is true even if a divorce record has an attached child custody agreement. You can obtain child support records from the child support division of a state’s department of justice.
- Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara: Copy of Divorce Records FAQ
- Superior Court of California, County of Fresno: Smart Search
- State of Maine Judicial Branch: Request for Records Search
- Multnomah County, Oregon: Divorce Records
- Alabama Public Health: Divorce Certificates
- Massachusetts.gov: How To Search Court Dockets
- California Courts: Access to Records
- American Bar Association: Materials On File Client Retention
- Massachusetts.gov: Get a copy of your divorce or other Probate & Family Court Record
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.