Search Divorce Records
What is a divorce record?
A divorce record is a public document which details the legal process by which two married people separated. Divorce is a twentieth century phenomenon, and in many parts of the United States it was even illegal to divorce your partner in previous centuries. If you are researching your family history, then a divorce records search is probably not a very effective way of finding out information about your ancestors, unless you happen to already know that they were once divorced. However, there are plenty of other, very good reasons for carrying out a search of marriage and divorce records to establish if someone is legally married or not.
The details contained within divorce records can vary from state to state, and may also be more detailed if the divorce was contested or opposed by one of the parties involved. In these cases there are often legal hearings and some of the evidence heard at these hearings will be recorded in the final divorce decree along with basic personal information. If the divorce was not contested – in other words, if both partners were happy to go ahead with the legal separation – then a divorce can be granted without anyone appearing in court, and with lawyers simply filing documents on your behalf. In these cases the divorce records you find after carrying out a search will probably only contain the most basic information.
This basic information will include obvious details such as the full names and dates of birth of the two people involved, as well as the date they were married and the date that the final divorce decree was granted. In some states further information about the cause of the marriage breakdown is recorded. This could be anything from “irreconcilable differences”, which is a standard legal phrase used in many divorces, to a violent partner or one who has gone missing from the family home for several years. In many states details about the property belonging to the two partners is often recorded, as information like this can help lawyers to establish how much alimony or child support should be paid by one person to the other. Sometimes, the dates of birth of any children that resulted from the relationship are also recorded, though they remain anonymous for their own protection.
Because divorce court records are legal documents, the original copies are kept at county or state courthouses or archives. However, many recent public divorce records have also been out online so you can search each state's individual database. This makes it much easier to search, as long as you know the area where the divorce was issued. If you don't know this piece of information, the best option is probably to use one of the commercial search sites which access every state database to see if there is a match for the person you are looking for. These sites often charge a fee for the search, especially if you decide you want to know all the detailed information that can be contained within divorce records.
Why search on divorce records?
Aside from genealogists looking for information about their ancestors, most people searching for public divorce records are doing so to check up on a partner. Divorce records can confirm that your current partner is divorced, as they have claimed, or perhaps reveal that they have been lying about their divorce being finalised. A search can also reveal if someone has been married many times, and in some cases, whether the people they married were well off. This can be a weight off your mind if you are worried that your partner is a gold digger, only interested in your money. Sometimes people even lie about having children, especially if they no longer see them and don't pay any child support. A quick and simple divorce records search can reveal all these different kinds of skeletons in their closets; or the search could clear up any doubts you have about committing further to your current partner.
In some unusual cases someone may believe they are divorced, having been told by a former partner that the legal side of things had been taken care of, when they haven't - for whatever reason. If you start to suspect that your ex-partner may have been lying to you about submitting the required forms and legal documents in order to receive a divorce decree, you can always carry out a search on your state's website or an international database in order to put your mind at rest.
How to search for a divorce record
The easiest way to search for public divorce records is online. Most recent divorce court records and documents have been recorded or transferred to computerised systems in a lot of states, meaning you can even search quite far back into someone's romantic past, if you want to check up on all their former relationships. You will need a certain amount of basic information in order to carry out your search, such as the full name and date of birth of one or both of the parties. You can search on just one name, but often official state databases will require you to have both names; this is another reason that the commercial or international websites can often be a more suitable option. After all, if you are checking up on a current partner to check they are not still married or have never been married before, then you are hardly likely to have the name of their ex-wife or husband in your possession.
Knowing where the divorce decree might have been issued can help narrow down your search options. If you know, or have a good idea, which state the public divorce record might be kept in then you can go straight to their website and search their own database. If you are missing any pieces of information or if you just don't have the time to sit at your computer typing names into websites, then there are plenty of companies out there that will carry out the online search for you. Many will charge a fee for this service, whether they find any details of a divorce or not. Sometimes you can access divorce records online for free, so long as you don't want or need to see all the intricacies of the case. If you want to read the full details of the divorce, such as property, children or the reason why the marriage failed, then these websites will then charge you a fee for the full report.
Of course, you can still head down to your local courthouse and get your hands dirty by searching through their archives. The staff there will either be able to carry out the search for the original document for you or they will be able to advise you on how best to go about making your own search. Remember, these members of staff have other jobs to do and cannot spend a lot of their day going on potentially wild goose chases. If you are merely checking up on your partner and hoping to put your mind at rest, a quick search for divorce records online is a much simpler, quicker and convenient way to find the information you are looking for, if the divorce records actually exist.
There is no way to expunge a divorce record, in the way you sometimes can with a criminal conviction or an arrest record, so if the person you are searching for has been honest enough to give you their real name, and they were once divorced within the US, then an online search will turn up the divorce record. Using a commercial site to do the search for you is a great way to feel confident that all avenues have been explored and allow you to go on with your life and your relationship.