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How to Find a Divorce Record in North Carolina
In North Carolina, divorce cases are considered civil cases and are maintained as public records. Divorce is also commonly known as dissolution of marriage, and it happens when two married people decide to reverse their decision to marry, ultimately ending it. A divorce is always legally recorded and this record can come in the form of a divorce certificate, a divorce decree, or a full divorce record. These documents serve different purposes, and when requesting a divorce record it can be important to know the distinctions.
Divorce records are considered court records. They may therefore be searched on third party public record websites. Divorce records can offer personal information on minors, finances, and sensitive criminal information like domestic abuse. Because of this, divorce record, certificate, and decree availability is usually much lower than other types of public records because of the personal nature of divorces. Simply put, divorce records are significantly harder to obtain and search for than other types of public records.
What is a North Carolina Divorce Certificate?
Divorce certificates may, in most cases, be obtained from the clerk of court in the county where the divorce is filed. They can be obtained by members of the public and contain the most general information out of any type of divorce record. A certificate simply states the names of the divorced parties, along with the date and location of the divorce. It essentially exists to state that a divorce happened from a legal perspective. The parties involved in the divorce may request this document when they wish to change their name as it appears on their identification, or if they are applying to obtain a new marriage certificate.
What is a North Carolina Divorce Decree?
A North Carolina divorce decree, also known as a divorce judgment, is usually only available to the parties involved in the divorce and their lawyers. A divorce decree contains general information but also lists the judgement and terms of the divorce case. This includes agreements surrounding custody, property designation, child support, alimony, and any scheduling that is relevant for both parties. This document is most often requested when one of the involved parties wishes to alter it in some way.
What is a North Carolina Divorce Record?
A divorce record is the most complete record that is created as a result of divorce proceedings. It holds the most amount of information and essentially acts as the case file for a divorce. Both parties are given a copy of this record after the divorce and it is usually suggested that they keep it safe in case they want to make changes to it later. Accessing this type of record requires fees and identification, but is usually considered a public record and may be accessible through the clerk of courts and the state vital records office.
Are Divorce Records Considered Public Records?
Provisions for copies of public records and fees are included in North Carolina law § 132-6.2. This law makes it a requirement for public record custodians to allow members of the public to access these records in a timely manner, though divorce records are often sealed and may not be available for members of the public not involved in the divorce. Information pertaining to civil court proceedings can be accessed on public online terminals inside of the clerk of court’s office in every county of North Carolina. The system is called the Civil Case Processing System, or VCAP. Divorce certificates can be accessed in the county clerk’s office of the county where the divorce was finalized and usually through the office of vital records. Copies of divorce decrees, or divorce judgements, can usually only be accessed through the county clerk’s office and it costs a fee.
Obtaining Divorce Records From the State Vital Records Office
The North Carolina Vital Records Office holds and maintains divorce records from the year 1958 to present. The Vital Records office also maintains birth, death, and marriage certificates. They can provide certified or uncertified copies of these records to requesting parties with a completed public records request form. For a certified copy, the cost is $24.00 and an additional $15.00 for every extra copy. This payment can be made in the form of a check of money order made out to North Carolina Vital Records. This request can be submitted in person or by mail. The address of the North Carolina Vital Records office is:
NC Vital Records
1903 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1903
To access a divorce certificate, it is required to provide a photocopy of valid photo identification. Acceptable forms of id include:
- Valid driver's licence of state ID with address listed matching address on application
- Passport or Visa
- Military ID
- Department of Corrections ID
- State or government agency ID
- Student ID including transcript
If the above documents are not available for the requesting party, they must include TWO of the following:
- Temporary driver’s license or state ID
- Most up to date utility bill with address listed
- Car registration address listed
- Bank statement address listed
- Pay stub with address listed
- W-2 form with address listed
- State weapon permit with address listed
Government public record search portals and third party public record websites both may provide court records search tools, which can help find divorce records, though record availability usually varies widely. Divorce records in particular may simply not be available through either source.
For any questions regarding fees or general information about vital records, the telephone number is (919) 733-3000.
Obtaining Divorce Records From the Clerk of Court’s Office
Besides the Vital Records Office, there is not a statewide database for obtaining public records like divorce records in North Carolina. Along with all current divorce records, the clerk of court’s in every county is responsible for the records of divorces that occurred before 1958. In every clerk of court’s office, there is a Civil Case Processing System (VCAP) that holds information about civil court cases in the county that they are searching from. To use this system, requesting parties should first know the party names involved in the case or case numbers associated with it. Members of the public can also view the VCAP user’s manual online, which outlines how the system works and how to access files.
Can Divorce Records Be Sealed?
Courts typically do not seal divorce records. LR 5.4, pertaining to Filing Documents Under Seal, states that if a party wishes to seal a record they must make it known to the court by filing a Motion to Seal. Both parties involved must agree to sealing the record or redacting some section or sections of it. It is more likely that a judge will grant the right for a divorce record to be party sealed than fully sealed. Some reasons for sealing a divorce record include protecting the identity of minors, protecting information regarding businesses or companies, preventing rumors or untrue allegations, or protecting a victim of domestic violence or abuse.
Does North Carolina Recognize Common-Law Marriages?
Common-law marriages created in North Carolina aren't considered valid under NC state laws. A common law marriage is one in which both parties consent to the existence of the union. It has yet to be officiated or registered with either the state or a church. The fact that a couple has cohabited for a while does not automatically transform their relationship into a common-law marriage. This is a common misconception. Typically, some rules or conditions must be met before a couple can identify themselves as married in public. North Carolina law provides that an ordained clergyperson of any religious denomination or a magistrate may only create a marriage by proclaiming the parties joined in matrimony.