Review Your Divorce File

All divorce files are public records, at least until California changes it and places them under lock and key. If your case is taking longer than you think it should to get resolved, there are any number of reasons why it may be a good idea to go to the courthouse and review your divorce case file. The procedure varies from state to state and even from county to county, so I won’t be able to tell you how to get access in your court. Just ask when you go there. Sometimes your case file may be checked out temporarily (typically if the judge is working on it), so you may have to return a few days later.

If you review the file, you’ll probably want to make copies of one or more documents. Courts often charge exorbitant fees to make copies, so take a digital camera and a friend who can hold the pages in the file while you snap each picure. Review each picture to make sure you’re able to read the text you wanted to capture (you may even want to practice at home or at work before you go to the courthouse to make sure you know how to focus and frame the camera correctly).

When you’re at the courthouse, you have the right to review your file, but don’t expect the court staff to be able to answer your questions about it. State courts everywhere are underfunded and understaffed for their workload, and the court staff are seldom allowed to provide any useful advice. Save your questions for your lawyer.

4 comments

  1. Lori says:

    Had a question.I filed a petition for adoption of my stepson. His mother was convicted of attemted murder,murder for hire and poss. of a sawed off shotgun. The target was his father, my husband. I have raised him since he was 3 weeks old.He is now 24 months. What do you think my chances are of having her rights terminated and completing the adoption?

  2. Lee Borden says:

    You can read here — http://divorceinfo.com/blog/?p=368 — the text of Ala. Code Section § 26-18-7, which addresses the requirements for terminating someone’s parental rights in Alabama. I see conviction of and imprisonment for a felony (subsection (a)(4)) as one of the grounds for termination.

    Just know that the court is charged with the duty to examine alternatives to termination before terminating a person’s parental rights. Ex parte Beasley, 564 So. 2d 950, 954 (Ala. 1990). If I were the judge, I would be hard-pressed to terminate Mom’s parental rights for this one act alone, when it was not addressed in any way toward the child. I would fully explore the extent to which Mom’s violent act is indicative of a violent nature that might later endanger the child, and the extent to which the parents can introduce measures to protect the child even while honoring Mom’s role in the child’s life.

    I understand that you find that abhorrent, but that’s my guess at first blush. And fortunately for you, I’m not your judge (or anyone else’s, for that matter). Your judge may have a completely different take on it.

  3. Kathy says:

    I have a problem as many of these people do. My husband walked out on my in August, 1999. I have seen him one time since then. I know that he has not divorced me, nor have I divorced him. He recently got remarried and I am thinking very seriously about filing bigamy charges on him. I am sure his new wife knows nothing of me, since he has a habit of telling other women that he is divorced or has never been married. My question is how do I find out where they got married so I can get a copy of the marriage certificate. I know the city they live in. Thank You.

  4. Lee Borden says:

    How do you know he has not divorced you? I’m not sure there’s any point to your charging him with bigamy. Why not just file for divorce from him?

    If you don’t know where he lives and cannot with reasonable diligence find out, you can get service of process by publication. Use a lawyer, because it’s technical and easy to mess up.

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