How To Find Out If You’re Divorced

How To Find Out If You’re Divorced
How to find out if you’re divorced is not always easy, but the first thing to do to answer that question is to ask the ex or possible ex-spouse. However, that is not always an option, especially if the whereabouts of that ex-spouse are unclear or communication difficulties make that impossible.

So, Plan B is to contact the court where the divorce was pending. That is sometimes easier said than done.

The first thing to know is that state courts hear divorce matters, not federal courts.

You will know if there’s a divorce pending, because the spouse seeking the divorce, the petitioner,must file divorce papers in court and serve those papers on you. Those court papers will show the court where the divorce was filed and provide the all-important case number. A case number is gold for purposes of finding out information in the court system.

If the spouse seeking the divorce doesn’t know where you are, then you may not know about the divorce. If attempts to find you prove futile, then courts may allow the divorce papers to be served via newspaper. Most states require that the petitioning spouse file a proof of service that the divorce papers have been served. The law requires that a respondent, that is, the person being sued for divorce, must have notice and an opportunity to be heard in court. Oftentimes, however, the respondent does not answer, and so the divorce goes by way of default, but the respondent must be served with divorce papers, one way or another, in order for the divorce to proceed.

Once all issues, if any, in the divorce have been resolved, a judgment of divorce will be entered in the court records. That judgment shows the world that the marriage has ended and is a public record. Public records are kept indefinitely, but the older the case, the more difficult it may be to find quickly.

So, if you know the court where the divorce action was filed and you have a case number, you can call the office of the court clerk. The clerk can look up the case number and tell you whether a judgment has been entered and when. Some state courts have that information available on line, so go to the court’s website and see if that information is available. That will save you a phone call and some time.

If you don’t have a case number, but you know where the divorce was filed, then follow the same procedure. It may take a little longer, especially if there is a common last name, but it’s doable. Be prepared to provide some information, perhaps a date of birth or a driver’s license number.

Given budget constraints, some courts will not provide any information over the phone, and so a trip to the courthouse will be required.

If you don’t have a case number or know where the divorce was filed, then answering the question of how to find out if you’re divorced becomes trickier. If you know where the ex-spouse lived at the time the divorce was filed, then try the court in that county. Most states have residency requirements for divorce, whether at the state level or the county level, so start there.

Once you’ve located the divorce judgment, make sure you get a certified copy of that judgment for your records. Certain government agencies may need a copy of that for benefit purposes and name changes. The same holds true for employers. A certified copy is more expensive, but you’ll want to have that for your records. To get any copy, be it certified or otherwise, usually requires a trip to the courthouse. If you live in a different county or even a different state, there are companies who can do that for you for a fee.

Finding out if you are divorced can be time-consuming, aggravating and frustrating. If you encounter persistent roadblocks in getting that information, consider contacting a local bar association’s lawyer referral service for assistance in answering that question.

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