Public records, as the name suggests, are open and free to the public. Vital records---birth, marriage, divorce and death---are among the easier public records to obtain, but you still have to be willing to do a little legwork to get your hands on the records. Since divorce cases are processed in county courts, you'll need to find out where the divorce was decreed and contact that county court's record department.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Full name of parties involved
- Wife's maiden name
- Court case number
- Date of divorce
- Location of divorce
Gather as much pertinent information as you can, including the full name of both the husband and the wife, the wife's maiden name, and the location, date and number of the court case.
Visit the records department of the county court where the divorce took place. Ask for a "divorce decree" or a "noncertified divorce record." Fill out the necessary forms and provide identification as requested by the state. You may need to pay a nominal copy fee.
Check with the county clerk to see if it provides forms online if you don't live nearby and must write in for the records. Most do these days, but if not, type a letter requesting noncertified copies of the divorce decree and include all the information you know, along with a copy of your identification as required. Sign the letter and, for the best results, include a SASE. Wait two to three weeks for the order to process.
Requesting "Free" Divorce Records
Complete Section 1, Step 1.
Check with the state's Office of Vital Records to see what your options are for third-party requests. Many states have deals with companies that will quickly process divorce records requests for a fee. Usually, these records are certified, legal documents that contain more information about the divorce than the decree or noncertified copies.
Go to the state-affiliated vital records website to fill out the necessary forms. Your records should arrive in five to seven business days.
The Alternative: Paying for Divorce Records
Tips and warnings
- In some states, you need to be a party to the marriage and divorce (or the attorney). In others, you merely have to prove some relationship to one of the parties involved. Also, you will have provide some identification of your own, but what constitutes proper identification varies from state to state. Check with the county court for its specific requirements.
- Some online public records companies that aren't affiliated with or approved by the state can also get you the information you want. You may be able to get the records instantly and at half the cost of the state-affiliated online option.
- Free divorce records are not certified and are not necessarily permissible as legal documents. If you plan on using a divorce record for some legal purpose, you'll need a certified copy directly from the county or state.
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