Are Divorce Records Public?

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Once question that comes up frequently is: are divorce records available to the public? The short answer is yes, yes they are. And the question that often follows is: how do you go about finding divorce records?

Like many varieties of documents, divorce records like divorce decrees and divorce certificates are public records.

What this means is that, if you follow the proper procedure, just about anyone can access them. With that in mind, there are a variety of different ways to track down and access divorce records.

In pretty much any situation, no matter the tools you opt to use, you will need specific information. This includes, but isn’t limited to, the name, date of birth, and state where the divorce took place. The more information, the easier time you’ll have narrowing down your search and ensuring you find the right divorce records.

Though it is possible to find divorce records for free, if you want official copies, you’ll probably have to pay at least a few dollars. These fees range from roughly $10 on up depending on the service.

Through The Government

The best way obtain divorce records is most likely to go through a county, state, or district government body. Not only do these have the benefit of being official documents in some cases, they likely have the best databases available.

After collecting as much information about the divorce records you’re looking for, contact the Washington State Department of Health. In the Evergreen State, this is the department that handles issuing certified copies of vital records for marriage and divorce, as well as births and deaths within the state.

Once you find the specific divorce records you’re looking for, you’ll have to fill out a request form and pay a fee. After submitting the proper paperwork to the Department of Health, then you wait. Because we’re talking about the government, how long you wait varies, and ranges from a few weeks to months.

Through A Private Company

Another popular option for tracking down divorce records is a private company. A variety of databases and businesses exist, and the biggest benefit is convenience. Most of them operate online and with a shorter turnaround time. In most cases, you’ll have to pay a fee and sign up for a membership of some sort, even those services claiming to be free.

Tons of different companies ply this trade, so you have a variety of choices. The downside of this is that some of them look shady and less than legitimate. Before going this route, do your homework. Make sure your information stays safe and that you’ll actually get results in return for your investment.

Online Resources

Sometimes, all it takes is a Google search to track down the divorce records you’re looking for. This method also has the decided advantages of being quick, easy, and free. You can, after all, tackle this on your own computer, on your own time, and from the comfort of your own home.

You may, however, encounter drawbacks to an online search for divorce records.

  • First, what’s out there and available online tends to be rather limited.
  • You may not be able to find what you’re after.
  • And when and if you do track down the specific divorce records, what you land on may be ineffective or inaccurate.
  • At best, it likely won’t be official in any capacity.
  • If you’re solely interested in informational purposes, this may be fine,
  • but if you need something certified, you should probably explore other routes.

As with the other search options, the more information you have, the easier it will be to narrow your online investigation. The internet is a big place full of tons of information, so having the names, state, date, and any other facts will go a long way to establishing search parameters. So will a working knowledge of search engine best practices.

Difference Between Types of Divorce Records

When searching for divorce records, you have multiple options of what to look for. Through the Washington State Department of Health, you can order either divorce decrees or divorce certificates.

Divorce Decree: A divorce decree is the court’s final ruling on the dissolution of marriage. It grants the divorce and lays out the basic information regarding the split. This includes everything from the case number and date to the terms and responsibilities of each party. Usually several pages long, the divorce decree contains the specifics of the division of assets and debt. It also includes details on child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support if those factors play a part.

Divorce Certificate: On the other hand, a divorce certificate is much simpler. A single-page document, it contains the basic information pertinent to the case, like the names of the divorcing parties and the date the split became official.

Why Do You Need Them?

Now that you’ve handled acquiring divorce records, there’s the question of why. Why might you look for divorce records? There are a number of reasons you might lead you to track one of these down. Ideally, once the deed is done, you’ll hang onto them, but we all know how important items often get lost or misplaced.

Name Change: After divorce, people often want to distance themselves from their marriage and change their name. If you want to change your name on the title of a vehicle or your state-issued ID, you may need a divorce certificate.

Remarriage: It’s not uncommon for people to remarry after divorce. A divorce certificate serves as proof that you are no longer legally married. The government may require in order to obtain a marriage license.

Ancestral Research: Online resources make it easier than ever before to trace your family tree. People use divorce records to research family histories, search for distant relations, or just learn more about the lives of their relatives.

Legal Matters: Divorce decrees are the kind of divorce records you generally want to hold onto and keep safe. But again, that doesn’t always happen. A divorce decree lays out the terms of your split in explicit detail. If you suspect your ex of violating them, the divorce decree is a good first place to check before pursuing a court case.

It’s amazing sometimes what is and isn’t public, and divorce records are certainly out there and available. The hows and whys of tracking them down vary, but if you’re thorough and determined, you can find most anything you’re after.

If you have questions about divorce or family law case, feel free to contact Goldberg Jones at our Seattle office.

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