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How to Find a Divorce Record in New York

Divorce - commonly referred to as a dissolution of a marriage - occurs when two people who are currently married choose to reverse, annul, or otherwise repeal the marriage. There are three ways that this decision to dissolve a marriage are recorded, and being aware of the differences between the three can save time when attempting to obtain a divorce record.

Divorce records are considered court records. They may therefore be searched on third party public record websites. Divorce records can offer personal information on minors, finances, and sensitive criminal information like domestic abuse. Because of this, divorce record, certificate, and decree availability is usually much lower than other types of public records because of the personal nature of divorces. Simply put, divorce records are significantly harder to obtain and search for than other types of public records.

  • What is a New York Divorce Certificate?

    In the state of New York, divorce certificates are the most frequently requested out of the three types of records and contain the least amount of information. A divorce certificate contains general facts about the marriage and the divorce, such as the names of the parties involved and the date of the divorce. A divorce certificate is filed with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDH) and is usually requested when one of the involved parties wants to obtain a new marriage certificate or wants to change their name. In New York, this document is considered a public record. It can be accessed by anyone online for viewing, but it can only be purchased by the parties or lawyers involved.

  • What is a New York Divorce Decree?

    New York state divorce decrees are sealed documents that contain all of the information included in a divorce certificate, plus the court's final judgement. Generally, a divorce decree serves the purpose of stating the rights and responsibilities of both parties. This includes spousal support, child support, child custody, visitation schedules, division of property, life and health insurance responsibilities, and how the parties will divide debt or future payments. Most often, a divorce decree is requested by one of the parties when they wish to review and make changes to it. This document is available for purchase by either spouse, and also by anyone with a New York State Court Order.

  • What is a New York Divorce Record?

    A New York state divroce record includes more information than both a divorce certificate and a divorce decree. Essentially, a divorce record is the case file for a divorce case. This record contains all of the information mentioned above, as well as all general case documents including testimonies, evidence, transcripts of proceedings, and all judgments and terms decided at the end of the case. Information about the involved parties are also available in a divorce record, including name, date of birth, and addresses. These records are more public than divorce certificates or decrees. They can be searched for and obtained similar to other types of publicly available records. When searching for a record through official government avenues, specific levels of identification and fees will be required.

Are New York Divorce Records Public?

New York divorce records are not available from family courts, although they fall under the New York Family Court Act, Section 166, which determines public access to family law records. These are provided by the Supreme Court and maintained by the New York Department of Health or certain county clerk’s offices. To find divorce records, visit the office or online website of the county in which the divorce was finalized. The NYSDH also provides copies of divorce certificates upon request. Its records include divorces granted in the state from 1963 to the present. The Department of Health only releases divorce certificates to the parties involved in the case. A third party may obtain this document by presenting a New York State Court Order. Restricted and sealed Family Court records include pleadings, findings, orders, decisions, transcripts, and documents filed during proceedings. Those permitted access to these records include:

  • Parties involved in the family law case described in the documents, and their attorneys
  • Parents, guardians, and individuals legally allowed to care for a child as well as their attorneys
  • Representatives of the child protective service involved in a family law case
  • Authorized representatives or volunteers of a court-appointed advocate program assisting in a child’s case
  • Representatives of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct

New York Family Courts can redact sections of their records before making them available. Commonly redacted records include addresses of children involved in family law cases.

Do New York Family Courts Seal Divorce Records?

New York State divorce records are sealed by default. These sealed records include pleadings and confidential records such as financial documents. Only the parties involved can access and obtain purchased copies of a divorce record.

How to Access New York Divorce Records Online

The online portal for accessing divorce case files in New York is the New York State Department of Health online platform. This platform provides records of divorce case files in all 62 counties of New York. The information required to obtain a copy of a divorce record online include:

  • A $30 fee payable by credit card only
  • A $15 fee for priority handling
  • A $8 vendor processing fee (charged for each copy ordered)
  • A valid photo-ID or copy of one
  • A proof of address or copy of one

Photo-IDs that are acceptable include a driver’s license, a state-issued identification card, a military photo identification, or passport. Proof of address may include a utility bill, a telephone bill, or a letter from a government agency.

Should accessing or finding a record prove difficult, third party websites can help not only locate, but obtain a record in question. Note that records obtained in this way may not be considered official or certified, and record availability may vary from government sources.

How to Accessing New York Divorce Records In-person or by Mail

To request family court records in New York in-person, visit the Clerk of the Court in the courthouse that heard the case in question. In some New York counties, these records are available from the Office of the County Clerk. If this option is not available in a specific county, in-person divorce record orders may be requested and gathered at any valid New York Department of Health location. When performing a record search or acquisition in-person, the only fee that will not apply is the $15 handling fee.

To order divorce records through the mail, download the form on the NYSDH website, and send it via mail to the address listed. Be sure to include any necessary fees in the form of a check, monday order, or other acceptable form of payment.

Requests for divorce court records should contain:

  • The case index number
  • The type of record sought
  • The record filing date
  • The names of the parties involved

Each request must be specific and describe the records wanted. The request should also use case and document reference numbers consistent with the court’s indexing and record retrieval system. Provide as much information as possible when seeking a specific family court record. In this way, the Clerk’s Office can offer the correct documents in a timely manner.

Government public record search portals and third party public record websites both may provide court records search tools, which can help find divorce records, though record availability usually varies widely. Divorce records in particular may simply not be available through either source.

Divorce Rate in New York

New York's divorce rate has been steadily declining in recent years. In 2016, the state had a divorce rate of 2.9 per 1,000 inhabitants, compared to the national rate of 2.2 per 1,000 people. However, by 2020, this figure had decreased to 1.8 per 1,000 persons.

Records of divorce in New York and state-wide statistics are curated by the New York State Department of Health. The Office of Vital Records maintains records of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths that occur in the state of New York.

Persons interested in obtaining a copy of their divorce record or learning more about New York's divorce statistics can visit the Department of Health's website or contact them directly at (518)474-3077.

Does New York Recognize Common-Law Marriages?

The state of New York does not Recognize Common-Law Marriages. Since 1933, the state has prohibited such unions. However, New York accepts common law weddings as legitimate if they occur in states where such marriages are legal and valid. By acknowledging common-law unions formed in other states, New York implements and enforces the “full faith and credit” provision of the United States Constitution, which states that states must accept the legal decisions of other states, including marriages. Thus, if you live in one of the ten states that accept common-law marriages as legal and then move to New York, the State would recognize your marriage as lawful as well.