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Understanding What Is Included in Divorce Records, Where They are Filed and How You Can Retrieve Them

When a couple files for divorce, they must follow their local state laws and regulations regarding any waiting periods, paperwork or hearings that are required to complete it. Some states may require a period of legal separation or “cooling off” period to determine if there is any chance for reconciliation. 

Once a couple has completed all the necessary requirements and agree on all arrangements involving division of property and debt, child custody and support, and any alimony payments, the court will grant a final divorce with the signature of a judge. This results in official divorce records that are filed with the appropriate government offices, which vary by state. Following is a discussion of why you may need these records, what information is included, and how to obtain them:

Why Do I Need Divorce Records?

There are a variety of reasons that someone may need to retrieve or search for divorce records. If you are divorced and planning on remarrying, you will be required to prove that the past legal marriage has been dissolved by a divorce court. In addition, you may want to check to be sure that your spouse’s divorce has been finalized. 

Sometimes, after going through a divorce, your ex-spouse may take on new credit cards or loans that mistakenly show up on your credit report. If this happens to you, the credit bureaus and card companies will need copies of your divorce certificate in order to remove these items from your report.

Private investigators and detectives may call for divorce records to confirm a person’s character, and certain government employers may need these records to verify your marital status. If there are children involved in the relationship, these records will also confirm court-ordered visitation, custody and support arrangements. These may be required at some point to verify you are the child’s parent for school records.

What Is Included in Divorce Records?

Divorce records, regardless of the state they are located in, include both a divorce certificate and divorce decree. A divorce certificate includes basic information about the couple, such as names and addresses, as well as the date and county where the divorce took place. 

Divorce decrees are the documents signed by the judge that include every detail of any arrangements or settlements involved in the divorce. This information may include details about a separation, child custody or support payments and visitation rights, division of property and debt, as well as alimony support.

Where are Divorce Records Filed?

These records are filed in the state and county where they occurred. Usually, a divorce certificate can be found in the state’s Department of Health or Vital Records Office. The divorce decree may be filed with the County Clerk, depending upon that particular state’s laws and recordkeeping practices.

How Can I Find Copies of Divorce Records?

Copies of your records can always be found in the corresponding government office that has filed them. However, only certain parties are able to access this information. Generally, the couple that was granted the divorce is able to retrieve copies of their divorce decree and certificate by presenting two forms of government-issued identification, utility bills and a letter of request. 

The attorney that represented either the petitioner or the respondent typically retains copies of the final divorce records as well. If you are not one of the parties named in the divorce records, you will need a court order to be granted copies of these documents.

Your search for divorce records may also include utilizing the resources available on the Internet. Vital records search engines may provide very basic information about a divorce, or give the option to order official copies for a small fee. This is generally the preferred method for gathering divorce records, as you can do so from the comfort of your own home.

Finding and obtaining copies of your divorce records is not a difficult task if you know in which county and state your divorce became final. Contacting the correct office or requesting copies of your final divorce arrangements can help you to verify the divorce and any agreements that you and your ex-spouse had verified by the courts.



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