Obtaining Free Divorce Records
Searching for public records of any kind can feel like a cumbersome task, but obtaining them for free may require extra time and effort on your part. Accessing free divorce records can help to determine the facts in a final divorce record if you simply want to confirm the facts, or research your parents’ divorce and possibly even track one of them down. The ability to obtain free divorce records will largely depend upon your search method, your relation to the divorced couple, and the time period that the divorce occurred.
Methods for Finding Divorce Records
Many searches for divorce records begin in the Internet. This is especially true if you’re searching for records from an area that is not within easy reach of where you live. Many genealogical societies recommend beginning your search for these records in this way, which can help put you on the right path in case you aren’t sure of the exact locale you need to be searching.
Contacting the state’s Vital Records Office or Department of Health is a great way to begin your search if you are sure of the state the divorce took place in. Many states will conduct a verification at no charge to you, which simply confirms or denies whether a divorce took place there and in what county. In order to request such a search, you must know the parties’ names and the year of the divorce.
Any information gathered at the state level can lead you to the county where the divorce occurred. You then need to seek out the County Clerk’s Office to inquire about obtaining copies of final divorce records. This is the part of your search where you may run into a few delays.
Your Relation to the Couple
If you are not requesting records that name you as one of the parties involved, you will likely need to be granted a court order or be named as the legal representative of one of them in order to access the complete record. Otherwise, you may be denied completely or be given copies that have much of the detailed information removed. Sometimes, if you were a minor child named on your parents’ divorce record, you will be granted access; this is strictly a state-specific decision that will determine whether you can obtain copies.
Year of the Divorce Record
Free divorce records are very hard to find if you don’t know when the divorce occurred or if it occurred many, many years ago. For example, if you’re looking for a record to research your ancestors, you may need to consult the State Archives Office or a local historical society. Many of the records from very long ago may not even be recorded at all, or may require you to physically search for them yourself in the county archives.
Your Own Divorce Record
If you need a copy of your own divorce record, you should be given one upon the divorce becoming final. In addition, your attorney most likely kept an official copy in his or her office, so you can request a photocopy from them. Otherwise, you will need to visit the county offices where the divorce was finalized and request a copy. You may also have the option to request one via phone or mail if you live very far away.
These records can be used for verification or research purposes, and are considered a matter of public record. However, divorce decrees contain very personal information that is often protected by the corresponding state and county governments. Your search for free divorce record information may limit the amount of information you can access, unless you are directly involved or armed with legal authorization to do so.
State-Specific Information on Searching for Divorce Records:
Florida Divorce Search
Texas Divorce Search