Divorce records is a catch-all term to refer to all public records related to an individual’s divorce or divorces. Keeping in mind that a court can “seal” divorce records, making them difficult, if not always impossible, for the public to access, most normal divorces leave a significant paper trail. What is included in a divorce record may vary from state-to-state, but can include the following information: the original complaint or petition for a divorce; the defendant’s answer to the complaint; any amendments to the complaint; temporary orders; proof of service; orders of notice; appearances; any applicable affidavits; protective order or restraining order information; any cross-complaints; consolidation with decisions from other courts or in other cases (such as child support or child custody cases); the court’s final order; judgment; and executions.
In divorces where there was a significant amount of testimony, receiving the full record from the divorce, where any testimony was recorded by a court reporter, can reveal significant information about a person. Of course, most divorces are not highly contested disputes requiring a significant amount of testimony. In fact, most divorces are agreed divorces. However, even in an agreed divorce, the pleadings can provide some insight into a person. Do the pleadings allege infidelity or domestic violence? If so, those allegations are not proof that they occurred, but are proof that a prior spouse alleged that they occurred. Looking at court orders can help a person determine how the judge viewed those allegations. Did the judge order anger management for either party, parenting classes, battering intervention and prevention programming, supervised visitation, or award either party a restraining order or protective order? Divorce records will also detail the names and ages of any children in common with a former spouse, as well as ongoing financial obligations including spousal support and child support.