In the UK, divorce court records are considered public records, however, access to these records is subject to restrictions.
The county court and the high court handle divorce proceedings, and all records related to divorce are recorded by those courts. While anyone can request to view divorce court records, there may be some information that is restricted to protect the privacy of those involved.
What information do you need to access divorce records?
To get an issue of the court order that finalised the divorce, it’s easiest if you know both the case number and the court. You simply send an email or letter to the court, with your address, your name, the case number, and how you want to pay the fee, and you should receive your copy within a week.
If you know the court that issued the final order or absolute decree, but you don’t know the case number, then you can ask the court to search their records. It helps a lot if you have a date, as they can then search five years on either side of that date, for a total of ten years.
Where are they stored?
Where divorce records are stored depends on when the divorce happened. The first place to look for the records will be the court that dealt with that divorce – the record is supposed to be kept by the courts for a minimum of 18 years.
Once that time limit is up, parts of the records are destroyed. What’s kept are the key bits of paperwork, which are retained for a further 82 years, making a total of 100 years.
For divorces that occurred between 1858 and 1937 in England and Wales, records are stored in the National Historical Archive; after 1937, they’re stored in both the County Registrar’s Office and the historical archive.
An incomplete picture
It’s important to note that divorce court records may not always provide a complete picture of the divorce process.
Divorce proceedings can be complex, involving many different legal and financial issues, and divorce court records may not always reflect all of these issues. For example, divorce court records may not reflect agreements reached between the parties outside of court, or they may not reflect the financial arrangements made between the parties after the divorce.
The value of access
Despite these access limitations, divorce court records can still provide valuable information about the divorce process, and can help people to better understand the various aspects of divorce in the UK.
This information can be useful for those involved in the divorce process, especially people looking to get remarried, and for researchers looking to understand the patterns of divorce in the UK.
As you can see, while access to divorce records is generally possible, it’s not always straightforward. There are some limitations, and it can be a somewhat tricky process to track down the records, made easier with the assistance of a family law solicitor.
Despite these limitations, divorce court records can still provide valuable information about the divorce process, and can help people understand more about their family history, or more importantly, to get married again.