Are Divorce Records Public? See Laws for All States (Free Search)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | May 29, 2024

Man on the right looks at a large computer screen in the middle that shows a heart broken down the middle with a bride on one side and a groom on the other and a woman on the left side wonders are divorce records public by inspecting the computer with a large magnifying glass.

Are divorce records public? When learning how to find my divorce date online for free, many people wonder if there’s an easy and free way to search divorce records.

Fortunately, there is. Anyone can simply learn how to conduct a personal background review at no expense using an online tool that searches court records from all 50 states…fast.

However, the tricky part is that the laws surrounding divorce records vary widely between states and can be very confusing.

The first thing to determine is are divorce records public in your state, and check the laws for any state where the records are being searched.

This guide contains all the steps and laws pertaining to public divorce records, how to find divorce records online for free, and someone’s divorce status online.

Is a Divorce Decree Public Record?

Whether or not any divorce records are public will vary depending on the state. Even in states where certain divorce records are considered public, there may be other divorce records that are only available to the parties of the divorce.

Part of the confusion for many individuals is the different kinds of divorce records available, mainly the difference between a divorce decree, divorce certificates, and general divorce records.

Divorce Records: Divorce Decree Vs. Divorce Certificate

Divorce records simply refer to any legal document pertaining to the divorce, this can include the divorce decree that was signed by the judge when the divorce was made official or any other legal documents pertaining to the results. Divorces are complicated so there are generally multiple different legal documents involved besides the document that makes the divorce official.

A divorce decree is what most people who ask the question, are divorce records public, are looking for.

A divorce decree is a legal document that is signed by the judge that makes the divorce official. In some states, this is referred to as a judgment of dissolution or J.O.D. This document not only finalizes the divorce but also lays out the specifics of the divorce such as the official date, asset allocation, debt allocation, child support information, child custody information, and any other relevant information regarding the divorce settlement.

Divorce Decree form screenshot without minor and or dependant children, with yellow arrows pointing to the headings on the form.

A divorce decree is a legal document and the court where the divorce settlement took place will maintain these records. Since there is so much information that is at least somewhat confidential included in this document, some states will automatically seal this record and will consider this document confidential. This means it is only available to the parties named in the divorce, as well as their adult children and attorneys.

On the other hand, a commonly confused document is the divorce certificate. While a divorce decree outlines the specifics of the divorce from a legal perspective, the divorce certificate is simply an official record that the divorce occurred.

Divorce certificates are considered vital records, similar to a birth or death certificate, and will be held by the vital records office in each state, rather than the courts. The exact agency in charge of maintaining vital records will depend on the state but the Department of Health is generally in charge of vital records.

Screenshot of the online document from State of Hampshire about Certificate of Divorce, Civil Union Dissolution, Legal Separation, or Annulment with yellow arrow pointing to the form.

Basically, the divorce decree is used for legal purposes, whereas a divorce certificate is used for census purposes.

In general, the divorce decree is the most likely document that will be publicly available. In many states, all court documents are considered public information unless sealed. Keep in mind that many states with public divorce records will make it very easy to seal divorce records.

Is Divorce a Public Record?

Although divorce decrees are often not considered public records, there is often some record of a divorce taking place, even in states with confidentiality laws. As mentioned, divorce records are essentially housed in two different places: Court records and Vital records.

This means that individuals who are looking for divorce records with the intention of determining whether or not someone has been divorced can do so using public records. However, state laws may interfere with obtaining copies of divorce records.

In many cases, the public may be able to find evidence that a divorce happened, but will often not be able to request the certificate or decree and learn the details of the divorce.

For example, the state of Arizona does not allow the public to request divorce certificates as vital records are considered confidential information in the state.1 However, it is possible to make a public records request of the individual’s divorce decree.

On the other hand, some states are more thorough about making all divorce records confidential. For example, in Idaho, all records of the divorce are automatically made confidential for 50 years.3 This includes not just all the related court documents such as the divorce decree but also the divorce certificate that would normally be available through the vital records office.

It may be difficult at times to obtain copies of divorce decrees but performing a state court search is still a highly effective method to determine if divorce records exist at all. Even though they may not be available to request, oftentimes there will still be a record listed on the state court websites.

Are Divorce Records Public in My State?Public Divorce Records
Alabama (AL)Public Divorce Records Alabama
Alaska (AK)Public Divorce Records Alaska
Arizona (AZ)Public Divorce Records Arizona
Arkansas (AR)Public Divorce Records Arkansas
California (CA)Public Divorce Records California
Colorado (CO)Public Divorce Records Colorado
Connecticut (CT)Public Divorce Records Connecticut
Delaware (DE)Public Divorce Records Delaware
Florida (FL)Public Divorce Records Florida
Georgia (GA)Public Divorce Records Georgia
Hawaii (HI)Public Divorce Records Hawaii
Idaho (ID)Public Divorce Records Idaho*
Illinois (IL)Public Divorce Records Illinois
Indiana (IN)Public Divorce Records Indiana
Iowa (IA)Public Divorce Records Iowa
Kansas (KS)Public Divorce Records Kansas
Kentucky (KY)Public Divorce Records Kentucky
Louisiana (LA)Public Divorce Records Louisiana*
Maine (ME)Public Divorce Records Maine
Massachusetts (MA)Public Divorce Records Massachusetts
Maryland (MD)Public Divorce Records Maryland
Michigan (MI)Public Divorce Records Michigan
Minnesota (MN)Public Divorce Records Minnesota
Mississippi (MS)Public Divorce Records Mississippi
Missouri (MO)Public Divorce Records Missouri
Montana (MT)Public Divorce Records Montana
Nebraska (NE)Public Divorce Records Nebraska*
Nevada (NV)Public Divorce Records Nevada
New Hampshire (NH)Public Divorce Records New Hampshire*
New Jersey (NJ)Public Divorce Records New Jersey
New Mexico (NM)Public Divorce Records New Mexico
New York (NY)Public Divorce Records New York*
North Carolina (NC)Public Divorce Records North Carolina
North Dakota (ND)Public Divorce Records North Dakota
Ohio (OH)Public Divorce Records Ohio
Oklahoma (OK)Public Divorce Records Oklahoma
Oregon (OR)Public Divorce Records Oregon*
Pennsylvania (PA)Public Divorce Records Pennsylvania
Rhode Island (RI)Public Divorce Records Rhode Island
South Carolina (SC)Public Divorce Records South Carolina
South Dakota (SD)Public Divorce Records South Dakota
Tennessee (TN)Public Divorce Records Tennessee
Texas (TX)Public Divorce Records Texas
Utah (UT)Public Divorce Records Utah*
Vermont (VT)Public Divorce Records Vermont
Virginia (VA)Public Divorce Records Virginia
Washington (WA)Public Divorce Records Washington
West Virginia (WV)Public Divorce Records West Virginia
Wisconsin (WI)Public Divorce Records Wisconsin
Wyoming (WY)Public Divorce Records Wyoming

* All divorce records are confidential.

How To Find Divorce Records Online for Free? (Is Divorce a Public Record?)

With so many things to consider, a question like “are divorce records public?” is extremely difficult to answer.

One of the best things to do is to simply perform a free public records search to see if any results are available. This is best done through an online background check service that offers a free trial or using the search bar at the top of this page.

There are several reasons that using a private background check service is best in this situation. Although in most cases it is usually a good idea to go directly to the source, such as searching state court records, this poses several issues when it comes to divorce records.

For one, if divorce records are available through the courts, in some cases, it may be necessary to contact the clerk of the specific court where the divorce was filed. Another issue is if the divorce decree has been sealed, then the information will not be available at all even if searching the proper court records. This means that individuals will likely have to perform multiple searches such as searching state court records, local court records, and vital records.

Although this is the only way to obtain certified copies, if the search is being performed for the sake of curiosity, then official copies are not necessary.

Are Divorce Records Public If I Change My Name?

If you change your name, whether or not a divorce record is public won’t change. Not only will a private background check allow individuals to search multiple databases at the same time, but it will also allow individuals to search every state at once. Since divorces are filed at the state level it is possible an individual could have gotten divorced in a different state, in which case individuals may be searching for the wrong state entirely.

Using a private background check is extremely easy. Generally, background check services will be able to perform a public records search using only the name of the individual as well as information such as the city they live in to help narrow the search results. This search will also find all documents matching the name of the individual.

Even in states that have confidentiality laws regarding divorce judgments, this only applies to requesting the document itself. Essentially, a free search can find evidence that a divorce decree exists, even if individuals can not see the document, knowing it exists may be enough for your purposes.

Are Marriage Records Public?

The law in each state regarding whether divorce records are considered public or confidential will also apply to marriage records. This means that for the most part, states that make divorce records confidential automatically will also make marriage records confidential and they won’t show up during a routine pre-wedding background review.

Although obtaining official marriage records is just as difficult as obtaining divorce records in most cases, finding evidence of a marriage is often easier, simply because people are more likely to try and keep a divorce secret rather than a marriage.

One useful approach to finding out if someone is married is to perform a social media background check. Many background check services will be able to find hidden and private social media accounts for a small fee. This will allow users to find out if someone is keeping a marriage semi-private and only discuss it on some social media accounts and not others.

How To Get My Divorce Certificate Online

Some people who are wondering: are divorce records public? may be interested in obtaining a divorce certificate for their own divorce. Whether a copy of a divorce certificate is needed for your own divorce, or if your state allows anyone to request divorce certificates, the process is relatively simple.

In general, the first thing to do is to locate the state agency in charge of maintaining vital records. In most cases, this will be the Department of Health, such as in California where vital records are kept by the California Department of Public Health.2

Requesting the records should be fairly similar in every state. Generally, the name of both the requestor and the name on the records being requested. This is especially true in states that only allow certain individuals to request vital records such as the parents, siblings, or the individual themselves.

Many states now outsource their vital records to a third-party company known as VitalChek. Keep in mind that third-party services should only be used if specifically recommended on the state website.

A fee is usually required to obtain vital records. Although the fee is often less than $20, additional fees will apply if additional copies are needed or if rush shipping is requested.

Divorce is a stressful and legally complex situation. What can be even worse is the issues that arise after the divorce is finalized which may require copies of various legal documents from the divorce. Essentially, court records are public records, and with enough digging, anyone can get a ‘yes,’ to the question, are divorce records public.

Frequently Asked Questions About Are Divorce Records Public

Is a Divorce Filing Public Record in Every State?

Divorce filings are a public record in most states. Some states will consider these records confidential which means it is often possible to find evidence that the record exists but the document itself can not be requested by anyone but the parties to the divorce.

When a Divorce Is Filed Is It Public Record Like a Criminal Record?

Most states will automatically make divorce records public records, either through court documents or through vital records. However, some states will automatically seal records or allow individuals to make their divorce records confidential.

Is There a Free Public Divorce Records Search?

The only free public divorce record search is through a private background check service.

Can I Get a Copy of My Divorce Decree Online?

A copy of your divorce decree online can usually be obtained through the court where the divorce was filed. Even if the record is sealed or confidential, the involved parties are still able to request these records.

How Do I Learn How To Get Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is obtained through the courts after a judge signs the decree, finalizing the divorce. To obtain a copy of the divorce decree, contact the court clerk where the divorce was filed.

Is There a Way How To Get Free Divorce Records?

Free divorce records can sometimes be obtained through a private background check company. Going directly through the courts is usually the better method but will require a small fee.

How Do I Get a Copy of My Divorce Decree Online?

A copy of your divorce decree can be obtained online using your state’s online court case search. Use the list above to find your state court site and request records from specific cases.


1Arizona State Legislature. (2022, January). Title 39 – Public Records, Printing and Notices. Arizona State Legislature. Retrieved August 5, 2022, from <>

2California Department of Public Health. (2022, March 5). Vital Records. California Department of Public Health. Retrieved August 5, 2022, from <>

3Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. (2022). About Marriage and Divorce Records. Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. Retrieved August 5, 2022, from <>

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it