How to Get Old Divorce Papers

By Phil M. Fowler

Divorce is a public legal proceeding, which means old divorce paperwork is generally public record and accessible by anyone. The best source for old divorce paperwork is the public records archive in the courthouse where the divorce was filed. All documents filed with the court in a divorce case will be permanently archived by the court clerk. Some state courts even provide online access to old divorce files.

Step 1

Locate the courthouse where the divorce proceeding took place. Generally, state laws require divorce proceedings to be filed in the county where one or both of the spouses resided for at least 60 days prior to the divorce filing. If you don't know which county courthouse handled the case, you can contact any courthouse in the state and the court clerk can usually help you determine the county where the divorce occurred.

Step 2

Identify the case number and file. If you already know the divorce case number (sometimes referred to as the "civil number"), you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk to obtain the file for that case number. If you don't know the case number, you can typically search for it using the name of either spouse involved in the case. As a general rule, all paperwork in a civil file is public record; the court clerk may charge a reasonable copying fee and you can then take copies of the paperwork with you.

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Step 3

Contact the attorney who assisted with the divorce if you need old paperwork from your own divorce. If you are unable to locate your divorce file in the courthouse, you can obtain old divorce papers from the attorney who helped with your case. Attorneys generally retain all case files permanently, so your attorney should have exactly what you need. Generally, state ethics rules forbid attorneys from giving out confidential client information, so unless you are a former client of the attorney, you probably won’t be able to obtain the requested paperwork.

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