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Delaware Divorce Records

Delaware divorce records are documents concerning a divorce that is gathered, filed, and maintained by public bodies in the state. They can be classified as court or vital records that contain information submitted or gathered throughout the divorce procedure.

The term "divorce” in Delaware refers to the act of dissolving or terminating marital bonds after which both parties become legally single. This differs from annulments which nullify marriages as if it never happened because it was illegal from the start. Also, there are no statutory provisions for legal separation in Delaware, so divorces and annulments are the only ways to end a marriage.

The grounds for obtaining an annulment are very unique and different from that of divorce. Since Delaware recognizes no-fault divorces, a spouse does not need to prove that the significant other was guilty of wrong-doing. The only requirement is to prove that a marriage to be irretrievably broken, despite attempts at reconciliation. This can be characterized in four ways:

  • Voluntary separation
  • Separation due to misconduct
  • Separation due to mental illness
  • Separation due to incompatibility

Separation is still recognized if both parties are living under one roof and may be less than 6 months in the case of misconduct like adultery, drug abuse, abandonment, and physical violence.

There are two major divorce procedures in Delaware: uncontested divorce and contested divorce. A divorce is uncontested when both parties have reached an agreement of divorce terms like custody, alimony, or division of assets and the process does not usually last long. The opposite is the case for contested divorces where at least one party is refusing the divorce or challenging the divorce terms.

A spouse cannot petition the Delaware family court for divorce unless at least one party has lived in the state for at least 6 months before the petition is filed. Also, the divorce is not finalized until the court issues a decree of divorce which had been signed by the judge.

Are Divorce Records Public in Delaware?

According to the Delaware public record laws, divorce records in Delaware are open to the public. However, certified copies of the divorce can only be obtained by the divorced individuals mentioned on the record, their children, parents, or close family members. The legal representatives of eligible requesters can also obtain records on the client’s behalf.

Therefore, the information that was gathered or submitted during the entire divorce process may be available to the public. This includes names, date of marriage, date of divorce, location, age, and so on. However, certain confidential information like social security numbers, financial details, and others may be removed from informational copies to help parties maintain their privacy. This includes information like military details, medical records, address, contact information, and so on.

Note: Attorneys, court personnel, and enforcement agents can also access divorce records.

What are the Types of Divorce Records Available in Delaware?

Generally, divorce records in Delaware can be categorized into three types: divorce certificate, divorce decree, and divorce court records.

Divorce certificate: This is a simple document or legalized paper that states the basic information surrounding a divorce like details about the husband, wife, children, attorney, marriage, and divorce. It is often used as proof of divorce and certified copies can only be obtained by the parties, children, and legal representatives. Certificates can be obtained from the family court in the county where the divorce took place.

Divorce decree: This is a more detailed document than certificates. They contain the final decree of divorce and more in-depth information concerning the rights and responsibilities of parties. Information includes specific details about the agreement on custody, alimony, property division, child support, insurance, and others. Access to this record is also restricted and copies can be obtained from the family court where the divorce was filed.

Divorce court records: These are transcripts or minutes of court proceedings concerning a divorce. However, since divorce hearings, trials, or proceedings are considered private by state laws, these records can only be accessible by those with direct and legitimate interest or claims. This is also available at the family court in the county where the divorce was filed.

There are also two forms of divorce records in Delaware: certified divorce records and non-certified divorce records.

The certified divorce records consist of the divorce decree and the divorce certificate. Both of which provide essential information and terms of divorce for the parties involved. This type of record is usually restricted to those with direct and legitimate claims and can be used for legal purposes.

The uncertified divorce records are informational copies of divorce records or court records. This record is just for informative purposes and cannot be used legally. Both forms of divorce records can be accessed at the family court in the county where the divorce was granted.

How do I get divorce records in Delaware?

Usually, Delaware divorce records from 1935 to 1977 are available at the county prothonotary or public archives. Conversely, divorce records from 1978 to present are available at family courts in the county where the divorce occurred. Divorce records can also be obtained through third-party vendors and the office of vital records can easily verify if a divorce occurred after 1935 but it does not issue certified copies of divorce records.

Obtaining a Delaware divorce record will be easier by following the following steps:

Step 1: Determine the type of divorce record required:

The first step is for interested persons to match their purpose with a type or form of record. For instance, if the purpose is to review the rights and responsibilities of a party, the individual will need a divorce decree. And if the record is required to change a name or bank details, it will most likely be certified.

Step 2: Determine the custodian of the divorce records:

There are different custodians of Delaware divorce records. Finding more recent divorce records should be easier since there is just one major custodian; the family court where the divorce was filed. Older ones before 1978 can either be in the prothonotary or public archives.

It will be easier to find divorce records or their custodians in Delaware if interested persons have certain details like name, date of the divorce, and location.

Step 3: Determine record accessibility and availability:

Since divorce records are mostly restricted to certain persons, potential requesters must determine if they are qualified to access the required records and the available means of requesting a record. For instance, certain custodians can only accept records in person or via mails while others are also available online. If requesters are eligible, they should find out the means of making requests or research that will provide the best experience in terms of speed, ease, and costs.

Step 4: Contact the Custodian

When requesting in person, here are the steps to be taken by the requesting party;

  • Visit the records department in the county the divorce took place.
  • Provide personal name and other necessary information or fill forms
  • Present valid photo identification.
  • Provide record details like names of parties and date of divorce.
  • Wait while custodian reviews the request
  • Pay fees to obtain copies

When requesting by mail, here are the steps to be taken:

  • Write a formal request or fill forms
  • Include requesters details and information on the divorce record
  • Include notarized signature
  • Enclose required payments
  • Send the written request to the Records Department in the county the divorce was approved.

Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in Delaware?

Obtaining a divorce record in Delaware is largely based on the type of divorce to be obtained. The informational or non-certified divorce record is made public and this is obtainable by anyone. However, certified copies or sealed records can only be viewed or obtained by parties mentioned in the records and others with direct or legitimate claims. This includes the children of the divorced couple, parents, legal guardians, and legal representatives.

Are Delaware divorce records available online?

Although requests can be made online, actual divorce records cannot be found online in Delaware. However, basic divorce notices or information can be found online through third-party sites, online databases, or custodian websites although the information obtained are scanty and not guaranteed.

How do I seal my divorce records in Delaware?

As a divorce record is mostly restricted at the time of finalization, it may not necessarily require a court order for sealing. However, like other public records, divorce records can be sealed if the parties petition the court and provide justifiable reasons why certain sensitive information contained in the records should not be open to the public.

Some common reasons for filing divorce records under seal include;

  • Protection of the children involved from being identified in divorce records.
  • Protection of domestic violence victims.
  • Protection of sensitive information like bank account numbers and social security numbers.
  • Protection of proprietary business information.

The judge has to be convinced that the anticipated damages caused by making the divorce records public is worse than restricting the rights of the people to have access to these records. Only then shall the judge grant the court order to seal the records.

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