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 do a free background check on yourself 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 search.
This guide contains all the steps and laws pertaining to public divorce records, how to find divorce records online for free, and how to find out if someone is divorced for free 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.
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.
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.
* 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 if 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 premarital background check.
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 discusses 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