It can be tempting to bury the divorce records away when people divorce and never think about them again. However, they are needed at various points of life. Knowing where to find them and how to request them can simplify various bureaucratic processes going forward. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Do People Need Copies of Divorce Records?
People may need proof of a previous divorce at various points in their lives.
- For government or legal help enforcing provisions of the divorce, including spousal or child support
- When applying for a marriage license in the future
- When applying for a name change
- When the marital home is going into one spouse’s name after being jointly owned
Where Can I Get a Copy of My Divorce Record if I Need One?
To get a certified copy of the divorce record, which may be required for the situations listed above, Texas requires that people request them from the district clerk where it was filed. It’s possible to request those records either online or in person.
What Types of Divorce Records Are Kept in Texas?
Sometimes, people think there’s just one straightforward document that includes the divorce details. However, in Texas, three types of documents act as divorce records. The difference between them is mainly in the level of detail each contains.
- Divorce records. These are a relatively comprehensive set of records that includes all the paperwork the couple used to file for a divorce. It also includes sensitive information such as details of assets and information of any minors involved in the case.
- Divorce decrees. These will include details such as who has custody of any minor children and how any financial dealings will be handled (for debts and assets).
- Divorce certificates. These are more basic forms that usually include the names of the spouses involved and the location and date the divorce was finalized. This is usually the type of document someone would need to apply for a subsequent marriage license.
Are Divorce Records Kept Private in Texas?
The answer is: It depends. Divorce proceedings are considered public proceedings, so some divorce records are held publicly and could be accessed by a third party. Records considered to be public records are usually held by the county clerk in the county where the divorce was finalized.
The basics of the divorce–the names of the spouses involved, the date the divorce was finalized, and any court orders related to the divorce, such as child custody or spousal support–are the most likely items to be available to the public. Other information, such as addresses, Social Security numbers, and other forms of personal identification, may be held privately by the county or government entity that handled the divorce.
Is It Possible to Have My Divorce Records Sealed Rather Than Available Publicly?
It’s not surprising that many people would prefer their divorce records to be unavailable to the public. There’s the issue of identity theft from personal details, but there’s also the possibility that some of the details of the reasons for the divorce may not be things the spouses want shared.
It is possible to request that the court seal the divorce records. However, it’s not automatically granted, and must have reasons to do so. That’s why it’s advisable to work with an experienced divorce attorney who’s familiar with what the courts are looking for when they consider agreeing to seal a divorce. Texas courts are more agreeable to the idea of sealing these records than other states. Usually, the strongest point that needs to be made is that sealing the records won’t have a negative impact on public health or safety, nor do the records in question have any value to the general public. In some cases, parts of the record can be sealed rather than the whole record. That might mean leaving the basic information (names of spouses and the date the divorce was finalized) as public info while sealing the more personal details, such as the court transcripts.
Some common reasons to seal divorce records include divorce involving child abuse, domestic violence, or financial fraud. Having this information publicly available can be considered potentially harmful to the people harmed by these actions.
What Do I Need to Request Copies of My Divorce Records?
When going to the county clerk in the county where the divorce was finalized, having the following information can help expedite the process. In many cases, you can use the following details to access the records online, either through the county clerk or through the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (TDHHS). It’s vital to understand that the TDHHS may not have the complete records, and if you need documentation for something such as remarrying, you may do better to check with the county clerk.
- Case file number
- Specific dates of the marriage and the divorce
- Names and ages of the ex-spouses
- Number, names, and ages of any children under 18
- County where the divorce was finalized
If you’re having trouble accessing your records, reach out to an experienced divorce attorney who can help you through the bureaucracy.
What Should I Do if I Need Help with Divorce?
Call the Cutrer Law Group at 817-813-8513 for a free case evaluation. There is much to consider when approaching a separation and divorce. Every case is unique and needs careful scrutiny. Our experienced, knowledgeable divorce attorneys can help you avoid potential pitfalls and guide you to the best possible outcomes.