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How Are Divorce Records Generated In New York?

Divorce records are issued by the court or the state, highlighting the date and details of the dissolution of a marriage. Compared to the United States, there are 5.7 divorces per 1,000 women aged 15 and above in the state of New York. There are seven grounds for divorce in New York. A person may file for divorce from their spouse in cases of:

  • An irretrievable break down in the marriage for at least six months
  • Acts of cruelty and inhuman treatment in the last five years
  • Abandonment for at least one year. This includes constructive abandonment
  • Imprisonment for three consecutive years or more
  • Adultery
  • Divorce after a legal separation agreement
  • Divorce after a separation judgment

To file for divorce in New York state, a person must meet residency requirements and have a legally acceptable reason - which is a ground - for the divorce. In New York, a marriage can end in the following three ways:

  • Contested divorce: if the couple disagrees about the grounds for divorce, or details such as parenting, property, and finances, the divorce is contested. This also applies when one spouse does not agree to the divorce
  • Uncontested divorce: this is when both parties agree to the divorce and agree on other details like finances, parenting, and properties.
  • Annulment: This renders a marriage legally invalid.

In New York, only a supreme court judge can legally grant a divorce. Divorce is finalized when the judge signs a divorce decree. Divorce decrees are filed with the county clerk of the county in which the decree was issued. Waiting periods for the finalization of divorce differ from one county to the other. Generally, it could take anywhere from 30 days to three months.

Are Divorce Records Public In New York?

Records of divorce in New York are not open to the public for inspection. They are filed with the Vital Records Unit of the Department of Health along with other vital records like birth and death records, and marriage records. Divorce records are also not accessible under New York’s Freedom of Information Law. Only authorized persons, such as parties to the divorce or other persons with a New York state court order, may request divorce records for an administrative fee. Requesters are required to submit valid identification with their applications.

However, some online request sites may allow free access to public divorce records. These are informational purposes only.

What Are The Types Of Divorce Records Available In New York?

The state of New York offers two types of divorce records: divorce decrees and divorce certificates. Case files and other documents apart from the divorce judgment are also a part of divorce records.

A divorce decree is a document prepared or issued by the court. It is the final judgment that marks the official end or termination of a marriage. In New York, a divorce decree is signed by a supreme court judge. It contains the terms and conditions of the divorce, such as the duties and rights of the divorced parties, name change, decisions about alimony, custody, property, child support, asset division, debts or liabilities, and so on. It also includes identifying information such as names of the divorced parties, the date the decree was issued, and a case number assigned by the court. It is usually filed with the county clerk in the county where the plaintiff lives or where the divorce decree is issued. It is only accessible to parties to the divorce or their attorneys.

A divorce certificate is filed with the department of health. It contains only basic information about the divorced parties, such as names and the date and place of divorce. It does not contain other details such as terms and conditions or duties and rights. Compared to divorce decrees, divorce certificates summarize the details of the divorce.

Both records are useful as legal proof of divorce in cases of remarriage, immigration matters such as visa applications, proof of name change, and other social security administration requests.

How Do I Get Divorce Records In New York?

To obtain certified copies of a divorce judgment or divorce decree, applicants must contact the County Clerk in the county where the divorce was granted or the plaintiff’s county of residence. In many New York state counties, the office of the County Clerk is in the same building as the supreme court. However, in counties, this is not the case; the supreme court clerk will offer directions to the office of the county clerk.

Certified copies of divorce decrees can be obtained by visiting the office of the county clerk in person or sending in requests by mail. Only parties to the divorce, their attorneys, or persons with a court order may request copies of divorce decrees. Attorneys must make their written requests on their company letterhead. The New York state supreme court directory provides supreme court and county clerk contact information for each county. An administrative fee may be charged for copies of the divorce decree. In some counties, the minimum charge for copies is $1.30, and the certification fee is $8. However, requesters will be informed of the exact fee by the office of the county clerk.

Divorce certificates are maintained by the Vital Records section of the department of health, and they can be requested in the following ways:

  • Online or by phone
  • By mail
  • In person

Only parties to the divorce or people who have a court order may request copies of divorce certificates in New York, as they are considered confidential and not available for public inspection. Requesters must submit valid identification with their application. Types of accepted identification are:

  • Driver’s license
  • State issued, non-driving photo ID
  • U.S. military issued photo ID
  • Passport
  • Documents that show the applicant’s name and address such as
    • Letters from any government agency dated within six months before the application
    • Utility or phone bill

Divorce certificates can be ordered online through a third party website that partners with the department of health to provide online access to vital records. Certificates can also be requested in person at $45. Cash, money orders, and checks are acceptable payment methods for in-person requests. Debit or credit cards will not be accepted.

To request by mail, applicants must fill a form and mail it with copies of their identification to:

New York State Department of Health
Vital Records Certification Unit
P. O.Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220–2602

Acceptable payment methods for mail requests include postal money orders, personal checks, or certified checks payable to the New York State Department of Health. Cash payments are not accepted.

The New York state health department only stores certificates for divorces granted on or after January 1, 1963. Divorce certificates are not available for divorces finalized before January 1, 1963. There are only divorce decrees available for those divorces.

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, it is important to bear in mind that these factors determine the availability of any type of marriage or divorce record.

Who Can Obtain Divorce Records In New York?

In New York, divorce records can only be retrieved or requested by either party to the divorce, their attorneys, or any person with a court order. Persons requesting a court order for the retrieval of another person’s divorce records must convince the court that the intrusion is necessary. For example, details of a divorce may be required to corroborate or refute a claim in another court proceeding.

Are New York Divorce Records Available Online?

Divorce decrees in New York are not maintained in a central repository. The decree can be obtained by mail or in person from the County Clerk in the county where the person who filed for the divorce - the plaintiff - resides. This means that if a person lives in New York county, they can request certified copies of their divorce decree from the County Clerk of New York County. Persons who live in Kings County may send their requests for divorce decree and exemplification of divorce to the Kings County Clerk.

Some counties, like Cayuga county, make some divorce records available online. However, the available records contain only index information and can be viewed or printed for a fee.

Divorce certificates can be ordered online from government-approved third party websites. Apart from the administrative fee, the vendors also charge processing fees for each transaction.

How Do I Seal My Divorce Records In New York?

According to New York state’s divorce laws, all records relating to a divorce are automatically sealed and inaccessible to the public for up to 100 years. This includes but is not limited to, affidavits, judgments, and written testimonies. Divorce records are only accessible to divorced parties, their attorneys, or persons with a court order.

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