Afsana Chowdhury | August 9, 2023 | Divorce
Because marriage is so common in society, it is easy to forget that legally, marriage is nothing more than a contract. And like any other contract, it is enforced by U.S. courts when one party breaks the contract. Divorce is just enforcement of that breach of contract.
Because divorce records represent both court proceedings and a contract, you may need the details from those records for other purposes. But how can you access divorce records in Virginia?
Divorce Records Are Public
Virginia has a Freedom of Information Act similar to the federal act of the same name. This act guarantees that most government actions are available to the public upon request. For reasons of privacy, some records may be restricted, and some specific information may be redacted from otherwise public records.
How to Get Access to Divorce Records in Virginia
There are two places where you can request divorce records in Virginia: the Office of Vital Records of the Virginia Department of Health and the clerk’s office of the circuit court where you finalized the divorce.
Office of Vital Records
Only the principal parties involved in a divorce case can request divorce records from the Office of Vital Records. This is because the information stored in those files includes information that would infringe on the privacy of the parties. However, if you need precise details of the case and you are a principal party, these are the best records to request.
Additionally, these records become part of the public domain 25 years after the case is complete. Thus, even if you aren’t a principal party, you can request these records if 25 years have passed. This can be helpful, for example, if you are the heir of at least one of the parties involved in the divorce.
Circuit Court Clerk’s Office
The clerk’s office can provide certified copies of the divorce documents. The information in these copies will be less detailed than what you get from the Office of Vital Records. However, it may be all you need, especially if you are just trying to confirm dates, parties involved, or the outcome of the case.
For example, these records should be all you need if you want to prove that you were divorced to change your name after a divorce.
Divorce Attorney Records
If you were one of the principal parties in a divorce, you should be able to contact your lawyer or the lawyer of your ex-spouse to get the records they have. They will probably charge you for this work, but often that will be all the records you need.
Process for Getting Divorce Records in Virginia
Both the circuit courts and the Office of Vital Records offer ways to request the records online. You need to provide information as part of your request (particularly to the latter), and there is a cost involved. It may also take a few weeks before your request is fulfilled.
Since you will usually only need these records for some other legal action, the best way to get these records is usually to let your attorney fill out the paperwork for you. They will know what is required and what records you need.
Looking Up Divorce Records in Virginia Is Relatively Easy
Virginia makes it relatively easy to get divorce records if you know where to look. You will need to spend some money and wait a bit, but you shouldn’t have difficulty getting the records you need.
Contact The Divorce Law Firm of Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury, PLC in Fairfax, VA.
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