How Do I Find Out if I’m Divorced?

This question was posited by one of our visitors.  It is an excellent question with many potential responses:

If you’re a man, look around your kitchen area.  If you see mostly pizza boxes and plastic microwave dinner trays, or if your “guest” towels have hotel names on them, you might be divorced.

If you’re a woman, if your home is suddenly spotless, and you know where the TV remote is, you might be divorced.

You get the idea.

All kidding aside, last week’s call was typical.  Our visitor wanted to search the national divorce database.

There isn’t one.

But there are quite a few state and local resources that will help, and our directory can point you to the court sites that where you may search “Family Court” records for divorce filings and many have options for downloading or ordering document copies.

Divorce records are usually filed at a civil court in most counties.  It could be a superior, district, or circuit court, depending on the court structure in the state.  Some county courts have a family law division that handles divorces, paternity, and child custody matters.  Keep in mind that not every county provides divorce records online.

Some states (e.g. Kansas) provide a statewide vital records office where you can obtain divorce records from any county in the state.  Other states will do a statewide search for you to verify a divorce, but will not provide copies of the documents.

Then there are difficult states like New York, where divorce records are sealed for 100 years, unless you are one of the spouses, OR you have a NY State Court Order allowing you access to the divorce record.  Check out the New York State Department of Health for more details.

Alaska makes divorce certificates available 50 years after the divorce date, but in the meantime you can access court records to at least see evidence of a divorce filing.

When starting your search, it helps to figure out what each state offers in the divorce record area.  We feel that our divorce records directory page is a logical starting point.

Or you could look outside your window and see how many cars are in the driveway.

What’s Vital in Rhode Island

Mary called us today in regards to a genealogy project. Mary’s family is largely based in Rhode Island and she is trying to obtain vital records documents from that state. Mary needs death records for a few family members, birth records for a few others, and a couple of marriage license copies and divorce records as well.

First I directed Mary to our main Rhode Island Vital Records page. This page explains where the various vital records are stored. In addition to linking to our directories for births, deaths, and marriages in Rhode Island, the page also lists seven main resources for vital records. For a state as small as Rhode Island, that is a remarkable number of statewide resources for vital records.

The page tells us that the city and town clerk offices are the best places to find vital records, but you need to know the specific city or town where these events occurred. If Mary had that information, she could use our Birth Records directory, Death Records directory, and Marriage Records directory for Rhode Island. Each directory has statewide and local links in those categories.

For a search of older records statewide, we recommend a visit to the Rhode Island Department of Health, where you can find Birth Records since 1899, Death Records since 1949, and Marriage Records since 1899.

Another resource is the Family History Center, run by the Mormon folks at the Church of Latter Day Saints. The Family History Center has all vital records on microfilm from the colonial times to the present except divorce records.

On our Vital Records page, we list an address for the Rhode Island State Archives, where you can research birth, marriage and death records since 1853. Some older records are available there as well.

The Rhode Island Historical Society also offers many vital records from the time period covered by the State Archives, but it also claims to have divorce records as well.

Additionally, for divorces prior to 1962, you can turn to the RI Supreme Court Judicial Records Center. For divorces after 1962, you can research at Family Court in Providence, RI.

With so much information available from so many resources, Mary is sure to discover many interesting facts about her family members.