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Where to Find Family Court Records in Delaware?

Family Courts in Delaware have exclusive jurisdiction over all matters of domestic relations definition in Delaware. There are three Family Court locations in the state:

  • New Castle
  • Kent
  • Sussex

Seventeen judges preside over cases of family law in the three courts from across the state. Some cases include child abuse and support, adoptions, marriage, annulment, parental rights termination, and protection orders. Individuals can find records of these cases at the courthouse clerk’s office where the case was filed or heard.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What Is Family Law in Delaware?

Family Law in Delaware refers to all state-defined interpretations of issues arising form domestic relations. Title 13 of the Delaware Code covers essential aspects of family law in the state, such as marriage, child custody, divorce, adoptions, guardianships, and domestic violence. There are 25 chapters of the Domestic Relations Delaware Constitution. Examples include:

  • Chapter 1: Marriage
  • Chapter 2: Civil Unions
  • Chapter 3: Property Rights
  • Chapter 7A: Child Protection from Domestic Violence and Sex Offenders Act
  • Chapter 9: Adoption
  • Chapter 15: Divorce and Annulment
  • Chapter 23: Guardianship of a Child

What Are Family Court Cases and Records in Delaware?

Family Court cases refer to court proceedings on disputes arising from family relations in the state. All information about these proceedings is collected and preserved as family court records. Some of the cases covered by Delaware family courts are:

  • Marriage: the legal recognition of two persons as a couple under the laws of the state;
  • Divorce: the termination of a marriage union;
  • Child custody: a process of decision-making about the child’s welfare and responsibility upon the parents’ divorce or death;
  • Paternity: entails the establishment of the fatherhood of a child to obtain child custody rights;
  • Juvenile Records: containing details of cases in which a minor commits an offense;
  • Annulment: the invalidation of a marriage union that falls short of the law’s legally recognized marriage requirements;
  • Adoption: refer to the official recognition of an adult individual or institution as responsible for a child.

Are Family Court Cases Public Records in Delaware?

Generally, the Freedom of Information Act allows interested parties to access public records, provided there are no intersecting restrictions by law. The Family Court Rules of Procedure in the Delaware State Code mandates all family court proceedings to be private. Access to these records is restricted to the persons listed in the record, delegates, the involved attorneys, authorized court staff, anyone granted by court order because of legitimate interest, and delegated public agencies’ staff. Furthermore, family court records sealed upon a party’s motion or court decision cannot be accessed by the public. These include sensitive information that identifies the persons involved or provide information about their privacy, such as:

  • Full name identifiers
  • Details about minors
  • Contact addresses and identification numbers
  • Financial information

Only the persons with direct involvement in the case and third parties with a court order can access sealed documents under this law.

How Do I Find Family Court Records in Delaware?

Persons involved in a family court case can visit the Records Room of the appropriate family court to view or copy records. Business hours open from 8:30 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. Most requests to view are granted the same day, except the documents have been to the State Archives or currently used by the judge/court official. Viewing is free, but copies of records requests come at a fee. Use the Fee Schedule to determine the cost of documents. Other eligible persons must present proof of eligibility either in the form of an ID, an official notice of consent from the record holder, or a court order. Only the involved parties and their attorneys are granted electronic copies of audio transcripts. To begin, download and fill out the application form. For more information, read the Informational Sheet of Electronic Court Copies Of Hearings.

How Do I Find Family Court Records Online?

Family Court Records are not available in electronic form. All requests for formats other paper copies will require contacting the family courthouse where the case was heard. For inquiries about electronic copies of documents, call the following numbers for these counties:

  • New Castle: (302) 255–0300
  • Kent: (302) 672–1000
  • Sussex: (302) 855–7400

For other counties, identify which of the courts handled the case and make inquiries in person, mail, or phone. Use the Family Court Locations Page to retrieve contact information.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

What Is Delaware Custody Law?

Title 13, Chapter 19 of the Delaware state code addresses provides state guidelines on child custody decisions in the state. While separating parents are allowed to develop a parenting plan, priority must be given to the child’s wishes as per whom to stay with or where to stay. Should the parents have dissenting opinions, the court judge presiding over the divorce takes the final decision. The state laws allow joint custody, which could be:

  • Joint legal custody: both parents have legal rights of responsibility and decision making over the child.
  • Joint physical custody: there is a schedule of visitation to allow the child to stay with both parents at set periods.

Sole custody and joint legal custody are the most common parent plans in the state. Grandparents are also allowed to visit the child by law.

How to Find Family Court Lawyers in Delaware?

There is a Delaware State Courts Legal Assistance service available for persons seeking the services of an attorney. On this page, there is a Lawyer Referral Service which allows persons to have a 30-minute session with the appropriate attorney for a reasonable fee. Furthermore, the Community Legal Aid Society provides free services to persons with financial difficulties, disabilities, and the elderly. Other free services include Delaware Volunteer Legal Services and the Legal Services Corporation of Delaware. The Delaware Bar Association provides a Find A Lawyer search tool for interested persons. Use the practice area of family law to guide the search results. The Martindale Directory is another free online directory of lawyers. Alternatively, a random search on the internet will return a list of some family law firms in the state and their contact information.