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How to Find a Divorce Record in Florida
Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is when two people who are married decide to legally annul that decision. There are three different ways that a governmental body records this decision, and understanding the difference is an important part of the process when attempting to obtain this kind of record.
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.
What is a Divorce Certificate?
Florida divorce certificates are the most commonly requested of the available records, because it is the most simple to obtain. However, it also provides the least amount of information. This certificate will show that two people have gotten divorced, 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 document is a public record, though 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?
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 dissolution of a marriage official. Each divorce decree is different, but in general the purpose of a divorce decree is to detail 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 or decided by a judge in the case, 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 document should only be accessible by the involved parties, as well as by the lawyers who were present during the divorce proceedings.
What is a Divorce Record?
A divorce record contains the most information relative to a divorce certificate and a divorce decree. A divorce record is the case file for a divorce case. Along with the information contained in both of these documents, divorce records include all of the general case information such as testimonies, filed evidence, transcripts of court proceedings and any motion, judgments, and probationary clauses, terms of shared child-custody, protective orders or related arrangements, and agreed upon financial entitlements or settlements. These records also include information about all the parties involved in the case, including all witnesses. Most records also list the names and addresses of the parties involved. Many courts will recommend keeping this file for the future in case one of the parties decides to fight any decisions or judgments that were made. Divorce records are generally more public than divorce certificates or divorce decrees. They can be searched for and obtained in the same ways as court and criminal records, with valid identification, information provided, and fees included.
Are Divorce Records Public?
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 include 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.
How to Find Divorce Records Online
To access the records of a divorce cases in Florida, visit the website of the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the specific county where the case was heard. The website of Florida Courts provides a list of links to the websites of all Circuit Courts in Florida. To view Family Court records online, navigate to the court record access page on the county’s Circuit Court website. Requesting parties will need to register on the site and then log in to access the records portal and start searching for family law cases.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 providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Government public record search portals and third party public record websites both may provide court records search tools, which can help find divorce records, though record availability usually varies widely. Divorce records in particular may simply not be available through either source.
How to Find Divorce Records In-person and By Mail
The public can also request these 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 between 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 information that was yielded during the judgement and is admissible as evidence that a divorce was filed and finalized. The judgement itself is gathered from the Clerk of the Circuit Court that serves the county where the divorce was issued.
After the annulment of 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.
Does Florida Recognize Common-Law Marriages?
The state of Florida only recognizes common law marriage 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.