Texas Court Records
How are Divorce Records Generated in Texas?
In Texas, divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, occurs when two people decide to end their marriage. According to the United States Census Bureau, the Texas divorce rate, including annulment of marriage, is 8.4 in every 1,000 women above the age of 15 years. This rate is 100 basis points higher than the U.S. divorce rate at 7.7.
There are seven grounds for divorce in Texas, six of which do assign fault to one of the spouses. Insupportability is the only ground that does not assign fault. Insupportability is when the two spouses have irreconcilable differences that make it difficult for their marriage to continue. The six other grounds include:
- A felony conviction
- Living apart
In Texas, divorce can be a complicated process. It is considered a family law matter, and if settled in court, it will take place in the family court. The documents holding information about divorce are held in the county clerk’s office and maintained by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS offers a list of county clerks, registrars, and local record issuers on their records website. The documents are held in the specific establishment where they were created. On average, it takes around six months for a divorce in Texas to be finalized, although it can be done within 60 days.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
Are Divorce Records Public in Texas?
Divorce records are considered public records because the files are created by government bodies. These records are made available in line with the Public Information Act, Texas Government Code 552. Although divorce records are legally considered public information, it can be challenging to locate and access them as some documents may only be made available to the parties involved. However, with valid identification, information, and fees, these documents can be obtained by the public.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
What are the types of Divorce Records available in Texas?
In Texas, there are three types of divorce records: divorce certificates, divorce decrees, and divorce records.
A divorce certificate is the most commonly requested record and also contains the least amount of detailed information within it. This certificate will state the names of the divorced parties, where the divorce took place, and when it was finalized. Often, this record will be requested by one of the divorced parties if they wish to change their name or apply for a new marriage certificate. Usually, only the parties involved can access divorce certificates.
A Divorce decree contains a bit more detailed information. It is often requested when one of the parties wishes to contest the information within it, such as insurance, debt, property, child support and custody agreements. Under certain circumstances, the state may allow this record to be viewed, but it is typically only made available to the parties involved.
A divorce record is the most detailed record of a divorce case and is essentially the case file for a divorce. This record includes everything that is held in divorce certificates and divorce decrees, as well as any file or document generated throughout the divorce process.
Types of Divorce in Texas
In Texas, there are four types of divorce: uncontested, mediated, collaborative law, and litigated. An uncontested divorce is amicable and happens when both parties decide that they no longer wish to be married. This type of divorce is usually able to be finalized quickly. Mediated divorce is when an attorney in a neutral position helps the parties negotiate the terms of the divorce, and mutual decisions are made.
A collaborative law divorce is similar to a mediated divorce, except that each party has their own attorney, and the process is guided by a neutral attorney and other neutral experts. Litigated divorce happens when one spouse files a petition for divorce, and the other spouse is served with the lawsuit. Then there are court hearings and a trial, where both parties are represented by their own attorney to figure out the best way to settle matters such as property division, child custody, and alimony.
How Do I Get Divorce Records in Texas?
Texas divorce records can be obtained in-person, through the mail, or online. To obtain these documents in-person or by mail, it is necessary to know the specific facility where the divorce was finalized because that is where the records are maintained. Texas also has a statewide online portal for accessing public records.
The cost of requesting access to divorce records in-person is $20, although it may vary depending on the county and the district. This fee can be paid using cash, credit or debit card, check, or money order. To find the nearest location to obtain a copy of a divorce record, go to the HHS records website, find the option for “Marriage and Divorce Records,” select the appropriate county range, and search. This search tool will provide the user with a list of all county and district clerks who can fulfill a request for these records.
To access divorce records by mail in Texas, print and fill out an application form. With this form, the requesting party must include a photocopy of valid identification such as a driver’s license, state I. D., or passport. There is a $20 verification fee plus a $5 processing fee. The delivery fee is $8 unless the documents are to be delivered to a P. O. Box or by express mail. Payment for these records by mail can only be made by check or money order made payable to “DSHS Vital Statistics.” Mail all above items to:
DSHS Vital Statistics
P. O. Box 12040
Austin, TX 78711–2040
The state of Texas offers a statewide online portal for accessing divorce records and other vital records from 1968 to the present. The cost of requesting a record through the vital records portal is $20 per copy and can only be paid using a credit or debit card. It is important to note that even if the records are not found, the fee is non-refundable.
Once an order is processed, which takes around 20 days, the documents will be shipped. The more details the requesting party provides, the easier it will be for clerks to find the documents. Information that may aid in the search for these documents include:
- The full name of one or both of the divorced parties
- The date that the divorce was finalized
- City or county where the divorce was finalized
- Date of birth of one or both of the parties
- Age of one or both of the parties when the marriage took place
While divorce and marriage records may be searched through government sources and organizations, the availability of these documents cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these entities are not government-sponsored; therefore, record availability may vary further. Also note that marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information the records contain, and are often sealed. Hence, bearing in mind that these factors determine the availability of any type of marriage or divorce record.
Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in Texas?
Divorce records are accessible by the public as long as all the correct information is provided. Generally, divorce certificates and divorce decrees are only available to the parties involved in the divorce and attorneys, and other officials involved in the divorce proceedings.
Are Texas Divorce Records available online?
Yes, Texas divorce records are available online through a statewide online portal. Larger counties in the state also offer their own online portals, although prices to complete a request may vary.
How Do I seal My Divorce Records in Texas?
To seal a family law record such as divorce records, both of the parties must submit a written request in line with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 76(a). The written requests must state why the material should not be available to the public. Once the requests are submitted, the judge will determine whether or not to seal the documents or keep them public.
The most common reasons for a judge to seal a divorce record are to protect victims of domestic violence or abuse, protecting private property information, protecting the identity of children or minors, and preventing false allegations for one of the parties in the future.