Divorce Records In Court Documents Online And In Paper Form: Differences Worth Noting

Law Blog

Divorce records are maintained by county wherein the divorcing couples received their divorce decree. If you need copies of anything from your divorce paperwork, your divorce attorney may have them. Otherwise, if your divorce is older than a few years, you may still be able to get copies from the county courthouse where you got your divorce. Just be aware of the fact that there are some limitations and differences between the online documents and the "hard" (i.e., paper) copies kept in files.

Online Records

Many states allow viewing of public records, including divorce decrees, which is why you can find some of the documents you need online (but not all). Online court records only allow you to see the basics of the court's decree and decisions made in regards to the adults in the relationship. Juveniles in many states are protected by avoiding the upload of documents regarding their placement, custody, and care. As such, you will not find any divorce paperwork regarding your children online. For that, you have to go to the courthouse and request to see your hard copies and divorce folder in person. 

Additionally, online court documents have a viewing life of about ten years. After that, many documents are pulled to allow additional room for newer court documents. Even if there is an update in your family court documents, it will not be present in your online divorce file if the online records have been pulled due to the age of the documents. Then you will need to revisit the courthouse for the paper copies.

"Hard" Paper Copies of Divorce Records

Paper copies of your divorce file are kept in the courthouse for several years. These files include all of the court proceedings having to do with your divorce, child custody, juvenile intake cases if one parent accuses the other of abuse or neglect, and anything else related to family court and your particular case with your ex. Anything you need copies of from old court papers are all in this file. For some people, the file may be less than an inch thick. For those in a high conflict, post-divorce battle, you may need more than one manila file to hold all of your documents.

As for the length of time that these documents are kept in the courthouse, that depends. If two people split with no children involved, it may be considered "case closed," and then the file goes into the archives. If there are children involved, the file may remain in the clerk of courts' office until the children are officially adults or until both ex-spouses stop pursuing the other for something. State and legal statutes also effect the length of time that your divorce file is kept in the courthouse versus transferring to the archives.


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