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As discussed in our guide to divorce records, divorces are a matter of public record even though the details of those divorces are not made available publicly. That means it is possible to search for public records of divorce online or at a local public records office. Divorce records do not provide the details, circumstances, or grounds for the divorce, so there will be no information about possible adultery, or behaviour which will only be known by the parties involved.
In order to locate the divorce record, it does help to know the date the parties were divorced as this can speed up your search, although this is not essential. If you are looking for an older record of divorce, then it may be handwritten, as opposed to digitalised which is likely to lead to a more “hands-on” search. In most cases the only critical information you will require is:
- The name of the petitioner (the person who started the divorce proceedings)
- The respondent of the divorce (the person served with the divorce papers)
- The county where the divorce was filed.
If you cannot find the records online, you may have to contact the public records office where the divorce was filed. You may simply have to show identification in order to access the records relating to the divorce.
The process can differ depending on where you are in the UK:
- England and Wales – Divorce cases that took place between 1858 and 1937 are in the National Historical Archive, Kew, Surrey. Divorces that occurred after 1937 are held in the county registrar’s office and the historical archives
- Scotland – contact the National Records of Scotland
- Northern Ireland – contact the Court where the divorce was granted. This could either be the County Court or the Royal Court of Justice in Belfast
Can I get a copy of my divorce?
Yes. The easiest way to obtain a copy of your divorce is to contact the solicitor who carried out your divorce. They should be able to provide you with a copy of your divorce file.
There are no specific rules for how long a solicitor has to hold your file. Such timescales are assessed on a firm-by-firm basis and will depend on the principles of that firm in relation to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Code of Conduct.
If it is not possible to obtain a copy of your divorce from your solicitor, it is relatively easy to obtain a copy of your Decree Absolute. The government website contains details of how to request a copy.
To obtain a copy of your Decree Absolute or final order you should contact the Court where the divorce, dissolution or annulment took place. There is an administration fee for this service.
If you can provide the case number, this will speed up the process. If not, you can provide the Court with the date you think the case happened. They will then search five years of records either side of that date.
If you do not know which court to ask, you can ask the Central Family Court to search for the Decree Absolute or final order at an additional cost.
Cost to obtain a copy of divorce
If you know the case number and the court the divorce petition was filed at, the cost is low, in he region of ten pounds. You should send an email or letter to the court, including your name and address, the case number, and how you plan to pay the fee.
Payment can be made by cheque, or postal order, and by credit or debit card by including your phone number in your correspondence. The court will ring you to arrange payment.
If you do not know the case number but do know the court that issued the divorce petition, you can make a request for them to search their records. The cost for this is a little more, in the tens of pounds, for each 10-year period. If you can give the court an approximate date the divorce took place, they will search 5 years either side of that date. If you cannot give a date, the court will simply search the last 10 years of their records from the date of your request. Payment can be made in the same way as above.
If you do not know which court issued the divorce petition, you can request the Central Family Court to search for the decree absolute/final order. This is done by completing form D440 and sending it to the address shown on the form. The cost to search a 10-year period is £under £100.
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The information on this website is to be considered a guide and is therefore not legal advice. You use this information with the understanding that Wiselaw does not accept liability for any direct or indirect losses as a result of anyone relying on or acting upon the information on this website. Whilst we endeavour to provide accurate information, Wiselaw does not accept liability for any errors or omissions on this website.