How to Find a Divorce Record in Florida
Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is a legal procedure a married couple uses to officially annul their union. The Florida divorce process begins when a spouse files original divorce papers in a Florida circuit court to obtain a divorce decree from a judge. The divorce decree is a dissolution of marriage record created by the divorce court. It bears the court’s final decision about the termination of a marriage, including how co-owned property should be shared and who should have custody of a child (if any). Another type of divorce record is a divorce certificate. Understanding the differences between these divorce documents is an important step when attempting to obtain such records.
Florida divorce records are considered court records. They may therefore be searched on third party public record websites. Divorce records can offer personal information on minors, finances, and sensitive criminal information like domestic abuse. Because of this, divorce record, certificate, and decree availability is usually much lower than other types of public records because of the personal nature of divorces. Simply put, divorce records are significantly harder to obtain and search for than other types of public records.
Are Divorce Records Public in Florida?
Yes. In the State of Florida, divorce is considered a family court matter, which in and of itself is a civil court matter. Family court records are available to the public unless they have been expunged or sealed by order of the court. All people of the public may access divorce records in-person at the county clerk’s office or online, although it is possible to find more complete records online. To access these records online, the requesting party needs to submit fully completed application forms to the county clerk’s office. The information that is required in these request forms includes the user's name, address, email address, and phone number. Requesting parties must also provide a reason for using the courts’ online record systems. Additionally, online access requires paying for a subscription.
Divorced parties may apply to the court to have some or all of their divorce records sealed. Florida Family Courts rarely grant requests to seal all divorce records. However, they may restrict access to court documents containing sensitive information, such as financial information.
What is a Florida Divorce Certificate?
A Florida divorce certificate is the most commonly requested divorce record, as it is the easiest to obtain. However, it provides the least amount of information. A divorce certificate shows details about a divorce agreement, i.e., the name of the person who filed divorce papers and their partner, where they got divorced, and the exact date and time that the divorce was finalized. A divorce certificate is often requested when one of the divorced parties wants to change their name or enter into another marriage, and they need proof that their last marriage ended. The most common reason a divorce certificate is requested is to obtain a marriage license. In the State of Florida, this type of divorce document is public record, but it can only be purchased by parties involved in the divorce or the lawyers who were part of the legal process. While an official or certified copy can only be obtained by those involved, the record can be accessed by anyone online for viewing purposes.
What is a Divorce Decree in Florida?
A divorce decree varies from a divorce certificate because it contains more detailed information. A Florida divorce decree includes all the information found in a divorce certificate, but it also contains the court's final ruling and judgment order that makes the marriage dissolution official. Each divorce decree is different but serves the same purpose: it outlines the responsibilities and rights of each person involved in the divorce. This includes spousal support, child support, child custody, visitation schedules, and division of property and belongings. A divorce decree should state all of the information that has been agreed upon by the parties or decided by a judge after the filing of a divorce petition, such as who is responsible for getting life and health insurance, if the wife will reclaim her maiden name, and how the parties will divide debt or future payments. A divorce decree is assigned a case number and is signed by the judge that presided over the case. Often, a divorce decree is requested when one of the parties wants to make changes to the agreements held within it. This divorce document is typically only accessible to the individual who filed the divorce papers and their ex-spouse, as well as the lawyers who were present during the divorce proceedings.
In Florida, divorce decrees can be obtained from the clerk of the court that handled the marriage dissolution. The clerk typically has a records service location that receives such requests. Individuals can also forward divorce record requests by mail. Many Florida court clerks also provide web portals where registered users can purchase divorce decrees online.
What are Florida Divorce Records?
A divorce record contains the most information relative to a divorce certificate and decree. A divorce record is the case file for a divorce case. Along with the information contained in the other two kinds of divorce documents (decrees and certificates), divorce records include all of the general case information such as testimonies, filed evidence, transcripts of court proceedings, motions, judgments, probationary clauses, terms of shared child custody, protective orders or related arrangements, and agreed-upon financial entitlements or settlements. Also, these dissolution of marriage records include data from divorce papers filed in Florida, including details about the case parties and witnesses (e.g., names and addresses). Florida courts typically keep divorce files for future use - for instance, in court proceedings where one of the divorce parties files to fight any decision or judgment made. Divorce records are generally more public than divorce certificates or divorce decrees. They can be searched for and obtained the same way as other court records, i.e., by submitting a request, submitting valid identification, and paying included fees.
How to Find Public Divorce Records Online
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved, provided it is not a juvenile's name
- The assumed location of the record in question, such as a city, county, or state name
While government and third-party public record search websites may provide court record search tools to help search divorce records in Florida, record availability varies widely. Divorce records, in particular, may simply not be available through either source.
How to Find Out if Someone is Divorced in Florida
To access the records of a divorce case in Florida, visit the website of the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the specific county where the case was heard. The website of the Florida Courts has a list of links to the websites of all Circuit Courts in Florida. To view marriage dissolution records online, navigate to the court record access page on the county’s Circuit Court website. Requesting parties may need to register and log in to access the records portal.
How to Find Divorce Records in Florida
The public can also request divorce records from the Offices of the Circuit Court Clerks by mail and in person. Some counties also accept requests sent by fax and delivered over the phone. To request Family Court records in person, visit the Office of the Circuit Court Clerk for the county where the case was held. This address is available online on the court’s website. Other available contact information includes the Clerk’s phone number, fax number, and email address.
The Clerk’s Office will charge search and copy fees for requested records. Credit and debit cards are required for payment for records requested by phone and fax. For mail requests, include a check or money order for the total amount and make it out to the Clerk as instructed on the Circuit Court website. Include the following information in the request for Florida Family Court records.
- The names of the parties involved in the requested record
- The case number of the divorce
- The year or years in which the divorce was filed, heard, or finalized
- The type and name of documents in question
The dissolution of marriage documents in Florida range from June 1927 to the present day, and are recorded by the Clerk of the Circuit Court for the county where the divorce took place. They can be gathered through the Bureau of Vital Statistics. This document contains an abstract of the judgment and is admissible as evidence that a divorce was filed and finalized. The judgment itself is gathered from the Clerk of the Circuit Court that serves the county where the divorce was issued.
After a divorce is recorded with the clerk, the clerk then forwards a report to the Bureau of Vital Statistics for more permanent archiving. The process outlined can take about 60 days to complete. This process takes approximately 60 days. If immediate access to the divorce record is required, requesting parties may contact the county Clerk of Circuit Court where the dissolution was granted. Any dissolution made prior to June 6, 1927, is obtainable from the Clerk of Circuit Court in the county where the divorce was granted.
Divorce Rate in Florida
Florida was once considered to have the highest divorce rates in the country. In 2016, divorces in Florida were recorded to be approximately 4.8 divorces per 1,000 residents, according to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research; that is nearly double the national average of 2.9 divorces per 1,000 people. By 2020, however, this figure had declined to approximately 3 per 1,000 residents.
The Florida Department of Health keeps track of all divorces in the state. Divorce records are also maintained by the clerk of court in the county where the divorce was filed. Information regarding divorce statistics or divorce records can be obtained by querying the court clerk in the county where it was filed.
Does Florida Recognize Common-Law Marriages?
No. The State of Florida only recognizes common law marriages entered into before 1967. As a result, regardless of how long two individuals have been together, they cannot be legally married in Florida without obtaining a marriage certificate. A common-law marriage is a private or informal marriage. Since Florida law does not recognize common-law marriages as legally valid, local courts lack jurisdiction to dissolve a common-law marriage entered into under the laws of another state. Couples seeking to dissolve their common-law marriage must commence divorce procedures in the state where the marriage was first recognized.
How to Get a Divorce in Florida
The Florida Statutes and the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure govern the marriage dissolution process in the state, and the Florida Circuit Court's Family Division presides over divorce affairs. A divorce in Florida begins with the filing of a divorce petition. By filing for divorce, a married individual seeks to obtain a court ruling that lawfully dissolves their marital union. However, each petitioner must have a legally acceptable ground to get a divorce in Florida.
Florida is a no-fault divorce state. Thus, an individual does not need to establish "fault" to obtain a divorce. Nonetheless, the state has two acceptable grounds for divorce (Fla. Stat. § 61.052). The first - and most common - is to show that one's marriage is "irretrievably broken". In essence, the marriage cannot be fixed, and the court cannot take any action (like ordering counseling) to cause the couple's reconciliation. An exception under Fla. Stat. § 61.052 (2)(b) is if one side argues that the marriage is not irretrievably broken and the couple has children. In such cases, the court may delay divorce proceedings for up to three months to allow the couple to attend marriage counseling or reconcile.
The second permissible reason for divorce in Florida is the mental incapacity of a spouse. Here, the incapacitated spouse must have been declared legally incompetent for a minimum of three years prior.
Besides Florida's divorce grounds, an individual's divorce petition must satisfy the state's residency requirement: Fla. Stat. § 61.021 requires one of the spouses to have lived in Florida for six months before filing the divorce petition.
Eligible spouses can check the Florida Courts website for the Family Law forms they must file with the Circuit Court to get a divorce in Florida. Any divorce filing in Florida must occur in the county where both spouses last lived or in the county where a spouse lives. Altogether, an individual can either file for a "Regular Dissolution of Marriage" or "Simplified Dissolution of Marriage" in Florida. The former is more common among couples intending to divorce. The latter, although the less complex divorce procedure, is only available to specific couples. More information about these two types of divorce filings, as well as considerable information about the Florida divorce process, can be obtained from the Florida Bar Association's divorce pamphlet.
After filing the divorce petition, the petitioning spouse must legally notify (serve) their spouse, then provide and get financial information from the respondent. What follows after is the divorce proceeding. Here, unless there is a history of domestic violence, the court will likely require the couple to take mediation classes to settle the case without judicial interference. The court may also require additional classes (for example, parenting classes for couples with kids) based on the case. If parties can settle via mediation or if the case is uncontested, a written divorce agreement can be signed by the spouses and submitted to the court for review. Otherwise, both parties must appear for a final hearing to obtain the court's decision.
How to Get Divorce Papers in Florida
It is often advisable to hire a Florida family law attorney to help with filling out and submitting court forms or other required original divorce papers, especially when dealing with a contested divorce case having minor children. The attorney can also assist with other court procedures and give advice unique to a client's case. Notably, couples in simplified or uncontested divorce proceedings without minor children and many assets may not require an attorney's services. The state court system offers self-help and DIY guides for such pro-se litigants (i.e., case parties without counsel).