Did you just meet a “perfect 10” on your favorite dating site and want to know whether or not they have a past that wasn’t disclosed on their glowing online profile? You’re not alone.
Guide to Searching for Marriage and Divorce Records
There are plenty of reasons to search for marriage and divorce records, especially when it pertains to someone who you are dating or may potentially date. In the age of online matchmaking, dating has taken on more of an anonymous face. Luckily, even though online dating is evolving quickly, there are resources available to someone who wants to do a little background research on their potential partner.
Marriage records generally give basic information: who got married and when and where it happened. Divorce records, on the other hand, can provide juicy and useful information about the stated cause of the divorce, alimony agreements, and child custody just to name a few.
The rules regarding marriage and divorce documents differ from state to state. In some states, only certain people (like parents, siblings, or adult children) can access marriage and divorce records. However, in other states marriage and divorce documents are considered public records. Being public record means that anyone can access them for free.
This explains why celebrities and politicians often have scandalous details publicized during their divorces; anyone can read the divorce decree. But even though the information is available in theory, you still have to find the records, and that can be tricky.
Here are the steps to take to locate and (if you want, obtain) a marriage certificate or divorce decree.
Marriage and divorce records can be obtained through low-tech means. If the records you are looking are local (or if you have a hankering for a road trip) you can attempt to find the records in person. Another option is to write to the appropriate place, requesting the records.
Whether you go in person or write, the tricky part of this low-tech option is finding where the records are held. Most of the time, marriage and divorce records are handled by individual states. (Sometimes, like in the case of New York City, they are handled by individual municipalities.) The correct institution to go or write to depends on the state where the marriage or divorce took place. To find out the name and address of where the records you seek are held, you can check out the CDC’s website on vital records.
Be Prepared to Pay a Fee
Writing or visiting the appropriate state agency will provide you with an official copy of the marriage certificate or divorce decree that you are interested in. However, the state governments will charge you a copying fee of around fifteen dollars (not to mention the hours of time & effort you’ve spent trying to track down one record in the vast sea of public records bureaucracy).
If hands-on search isn’t working, if you prefer something quicker and easier, or if you don’t know what state to search in, you can try online searching. Several websites offer marriage certificate and divorce decree searches, for a convenience fee.
Our recommended resource for marriage and divorce record searches is Public Records Search, which will let you search in any state or search the nationwide for a variety of public records.
So if you aren’t sure where a marriage or divorce happened, this is your option. Public Records Pro charges $30 for a year of unlimited searching. Public Records Pro will also give you the information on how to obtain an official copy of the marriage or divorce records, but generally speaking, if you’re just trying to check up on John Smith, aka HotStudMan69 from Match.com, you’re probably not all that interested in getting an official notarized copy of his 1998 divorce record from his 3rd failed marriage. You just need to know that everything’s finalized and he’s ready to move on with his life. With you, of course.
So, go ahead, make sure that your date is being truthful with you by running a marriage or divorce records search.
However you choose to pursue your marriage or divorce record search, good luck and happy hunting!