How to Access Public Court Records

Updated April 17, 2017

There are several ways to obtain public court records and most are available on the web. While some court records can often be accessed for free, others might require a small fee. The courts, as well as the county clerk's office, can provide copies of most public documents and filed court records such as marriage, divorce and birth records, as well as court dockets and case files, adoption records, judicial orders and probate records. These records and documents are often obtained through the court's website, through written request or in person.

Request records from the court. Most county, state and federal courts will mail copies of court records upon written request, such as specific dockets and filings and marriage or divorce records. They might charge a small fee to do so. Contact the court clerk, explain which documents you wish to obtain, ask if written request is needed, whether there is a fee, and how much.

Obtain state court records online. For state court records, check the National Center for State Courts website, which will direct you to all of the state court websites. Choose the appropriate one and search for documents that have already been recorded and filed. Sometimes documents can be viewed online and printed. There might be a per-page fee.

Access federal and Supreme Court documents. For federal and Supreme Court documents, visit the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts PACER Service Center, or the Federal District Court Filings and Dockets website, Justia. These sites both offer extensive databases containing federal and Supreme Court records and filings. PACER requires a membership and charges a per-page fee.

Find documents at a clerk's office. Check with the clerk's office of the local courthouse of the county for which you are seeking public court records. Have the information ready for the clerk (as mentioned in the things you'll need section) and be ready to pay in cash. Not all courts have the capability of accepting credit or debit cards.

If the specific documents you are looking for are not available online through the court's website, you can search for public records through websites such as PeopleFinders and Intelius, which can provide access to bankruptcy documents, marriage and divorce filings, property filings, death records, criminal records and business filings.

Things You'll Need

  • Name of at least one individual on the court document (names of all if possible)
  • Court document type, identifying number, recorded date (any or all if possible)
  • State and county of court record location (city if possible)
  • Computer with Internet access
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About the Author

Christi Jordan has been a freelance writer since 2001 and has previously written for AOL and Weblogs Inc. In addition to writing for Demand Studios, Jordan currently provides content for several promotional business blogs, herbal and alternative health guides, and is a certified Childhood Obesity Specialist, Core Training Specialist, Personal Trainer and Aerobics Instructor.