How to Access Divorce Records

Two Methods:Finding Divorce Records Through Court WebsitesFinding Divorce Records Through the Office of Vital Statistics

Divorce papers, like marriage certificates, are public records. That means they are available to anyone who puts in the time to request them. Moreover, accessing a basic divorce record is a fairly simple and inexpensive process.

Method 1
Finding Divorce Records Through Court Websites

  1. Image titled Access Divorce Records Step 1
    Find out some basic information about the parties. It's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to find a divorce record if you don't have a few basic pieces of information. At a minimum, you need to know the full names of both parties to the divorce, the state where they got their divorce, and the county or parish where they filed for divorce.
    • It always helps to know the maiden name of the wife, just in case she changed her name prior to the divorce.
    • In some jurisdictions, you're going to need the date of the divorce to access or find the record.[1] If you're looking for a record in this kind of jurisdiction, this can put you in a bit of a Catch-22, because it's quite possible that if you knew the date you wouldn't need to research the divorce record in the first place. You're either going to have to search a range of dates online, or you're going to have to contact the Department of Vital Records directly.
    • If you don't know which county the couple filed for divorce in, remember, it's very unlikely that they would file for divorce in a county where neither lived. If you know the approximate date when they got divorced, use your knowledge of their whereabouts at the time to make an educated guess.
  2. Image titled Access Divorce Records Step 2
    Determine the judicial circuit where they filed. In most states, there are fewer judicial circuits than there are counties, meaning several counties make up one judicial circuit.[2] A judicial circuit is the territory of a court. So if a circuit is composed of three counties, the court's territory, or circuit, are those counties. All the cases filed in those counties are heard at a court in that circuit. Using your knowledge of the county where the parties filed, determine which judicial circuit they filed in. In order to find a divorce record, you first need to find the court where the divorce was filed. Once you find the circuit, go to its website.
    • This is easier than it sounds. Almost every state will have a website for its court system. A directory of the circuits should be on the court system's website. If you want a head start, go to, where you can find a link to the court system's website.
    • Some states have a dedicated system of family courts. In those states, the family court system will hear divorce cases. In other states, courts of general jurisdiction hear divorce cases. If your state has a family court system, you'll want to find the circuit for the family court.[3]
  3. Image titled Access Divorce Records Step 3
    Conduct your search. If you have the parties' names and the judicial circuit where the divorce was filed, this is oftentimes all you will need to know to get a basic record of the divorce.[4] Just go to the court's website, look for the records section, and enter the names of one or both of the parties, depending on search format. You'll usually get a record of all of the filings for that person or persons in that circuit. Go through the records to find the divorce case.
    • You probably won't get to access the actual divorce decree on a website like this. If you wish to examine the decree, take down the case number from the information you found on the case and contact the court directly to make a records request. Most court websites will have instructions on how to do this--if they don't, contact them and ask.
    • Many states do not allow persons other than parties in the divorce or close relatives access to the text of the actual divorce decree.

Method 2
Finding Divorce Records Through the Office of Vital Statistics

  1. Image titled Access Divorce Records Step 4
    Find out some basic information about the parties. You will need to know the names of the parties, the state where they were divorced, and ideally, the date of the divorce.[5]
  2. Image titled Access Divorce Records Step 5
    Contact the Office of Vital Records/Statistics in the county that the divorce was filed. If you don’t know the county that the divorce was filed in, contact your state’s office. You can do this online, over the phone, or in person.[6]
    • Keep in mind that the office that collects vital records of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces might not be call the "Office of Vital Statistics." They are sometimes referred to as "Vital Records Offices," or "Public Health Offices" instead.
  3. Image titled Access Divorce Records Step 6
    Fill out a records request. In many cases, this paperwork is available online. If not, you'll need to visit the office in person and fill out the request there. There is oftentimes a fee associated with the request, but it is usually less than $20. In most cases, this can be mailed.[7]
  4. Image titled Access Divorce Records Step 7
    Mail in the form, along with whatever payment the state requires. Be sure to look over the request form to make sure that you have included everything you needed to include. For example, some states may require an enclosed self-addressed envelope along with the fee.
  5. Image titled Access Divorce Records Step 8
    Wait for the paperwork to process. Be prepared to wait anywhere from two weeks to six months before you receive a call that the paperwork is available for pick up or before it is mailed to you.
    • Although this is a relatively simpler way to access a divorce record, it also takes much longer than accessing it online. This is probably only going to worth your while if the record is too old to be online.
    • Although you will get a case number when your paperwork is mailed to you, many states do not allow persons who are not parties of the divorce or close relatives access to the divorce decree itself.

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Categories: Divorce