Learn How to Conduct a Productive Divorce Records Search
If you have simply misplaced your copies of your own divorce records or want to delve into your family’s history a little further, a divorce records search may be in order. Unfortunately, you may be limited as to the amount of information you can access—this all depends upon your relation to the parties in the record. However, combining online search engines and local government resources could still further your quest in learning more about someone else’s past.
The first step in any divorce records search is to know the names of the parties involved in the divorce, as well as the location that the divorce took place. Not knowing this information will greatly hinder your efforts and cause you many more headaches along the way. This is especially true if the couple shared a common name such as Smith or
Jones, as these can be confused with hundreds of other divorce records.
You will also need to know the approximate date and at least the year in which the divorce was granted. This will help you and the government office you’re dealing with narrow down the results to likely find the correct record for you.
Start Your Search Online
Many times, especially if you’re conducting a divorce records search for someone other than yourself, starting with the Internet for divorce records online is the ideal option. This will only offer limited results, but will ensure you’re on the right path. For example, many divorce records search engines will provide results in various states and counties if you only know the date and names of the couple who was involved. This provides a great way to put the puzzle pieces together while conducting genealogical research.
Visit the State Office
After searching for divorce records online, it’s often a good idea to contact the state’s Vital Records Office or Department of Health to find more information about the final divorce record. You may visit the state’s website if you live far away, or simply contact the department by phone to inquire about how to obtain the record you’re searching for. Many times, you may only be granted a verification that the divorce did or did not occur unless you are a legal representative of one of the parties named in the record or possess a court order.
Search County-Level Records
The information gathered at the state level during your divorce records search will often provide the county in which the divorce was granted. Now, you can visit the corresponding County Clerk’s office and request a copy of the divorce decree.
These records held at the county level are much more detailed than those held with the state offices. Decrees include information about the final divorce arrangements such as child custody and visitation rights, support payments, and property division. Any minor children that were subject to these proceedings will also be named, and all temporary orders such as separations and restraining orders are included in this decree.
If you’re conducting genealogical research or your divorce records search is a quest for very old documents, you may run into a few bumps along the way. Many times, some counties or states may not even have access to these records from certain years. This may be due to poor recordkeeping practices in the past, or even a natural disaster which could have destroyed them at some point in time.
Another issue local governments run into is that they simply don’t have the room to maintain all of these records. If this is the case in the locale where your divorce records search has led you, you’ll most likely be directed to the State Archives, or even the local historical society.
Depending upon your relation to the couple named in the record, your divorce records search may not provide the information you need. Final divorce decrees hold very specific and personal information that most local governments have taken steps to protect. This is especially true about any information involving minor children, home addresses and perhaps even property holdings.
If you are a named party in the record, including the petitioner or respondent, a minor child who resulted from the marriage or a legal representative of one of these parties, you will likely be granted full access to the record and information contained in it. Otherwise, you will need a court order granting you access to the complete record.
You may also not need all of the details involved in the record. If this is your case, then perhaps the information you need can be found for free online, or you may be able to gather enough even with much of the information begin censored. If you only need to verify a divorce or find the location, date or name of one of the parties involved, then a court order will not be necessary.
Accessing full divorce decrees will require you to prove your identity. You’ll need two forms of government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, passport, or military I.D. Some county offices will also want to see a utility bill in order to establish you are truly the person named in the decree.
Copies of Divorce Records
Upon making a divorce final, all parties involved should receive a copy of their
. This needs to be kept on hand in case any dispute arises in the future; you may also need to prove the divorce is legal if you plan on remarrying or find that new credit lines are showing up on your report.
The limited information found online during a divorce records search is also often free. However, a fee-based service may offer more reliable and detailed information. Copies of these records can also be obtained from the office maintaining them, but you may be charged a nominal fee for photocopies. Official copies may carry a larger fee of $5 or more, depending upon the county.
Regardless of your reasons for conducting a divorce records search, the more information you have, the better off you’ll be from the beginning. You may be limited in the amount of information you’re allowed to actually access, but using online sources in conjunction with local government bodies can still assist you with your divorce records search and lead you in the right direction.