Are Divorce Documents Public Record?

By Teo Spengler

With very few exceptions, all documents in court files are classified as public records. Most filings in a divorce case, from the opening petition to the final judgment, can be inspected by anyone who visits the courthouse in which the divorce was prosecuted during regular business hours. Jurisdictions vary regarding exceptions to public access.

With very few exceptions, all documents in court files are classified as public records. Most filings in a divorce case, from the opening petition to the final judgment, can be inspected by anyone who visits the courthouse in which the divorce was prosecuted during regular business hours. Jurisdictions vary regarding exceptions to public access.

Court Records

In most states, documents filed with the court -- from wills to death penalty litigation -- are considered public documents that may be viewed by anyone who comes to the courthouse. This includes divorce documents. Certain jurisdictions provide for viewing of court files over the Internet.

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When Privacy Prevails

Each state legislature carves out exceptions to this rule it deems necessary. Documents detailing domestic abuse are considered private in some states, as are documents gathered as part of a person's psychological evaluation. Another common exception involves judicial work product, including a judge's notes, internal staff memos and document drafts.

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Are There Public Records When People File for Divorce?

References

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Can Anyone See Someone's Last Will & Testament?

While a testator remains alive, her will is a private document. She shows it to whom she wishes, and others have no right to view it. It is revocable at whim. At the testator's death, however, the will executor files the document with the probate court. Once a will is filed with the court, it is a public document unless the court orders otherwise.

What Is a Correct Date of Divorce: the Date of Filing or Date of Judgment of the Divorce?

A divorce typically includes four important legal dates: the date of separation from the other spouse, the date of filing the petition at the courthouse, the date the judge signs the judgment, and the date the court clerk enters the judgment into the court record and provides notice of its entry to both parties. Even after all of these events take place, some states apply a waiting period before the divorce is final -- sometimes six months later.

Are Wills Public Records?

Although wills are often intensely personal by design, they become public record at some point after the testator -- the person the will belongs to -- dies. Before that time, they are not legal documents and are the private property of the testator. With a few exceptions, wills are usually required to be filed with the court for the probate process. Once the court has possession, wills begin channeling through the probate process, are eventually filed and become available for public access.

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