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How to Find a Divorce Record in Pennsylvania

Divorce is a legal action taken when two people who are married to each other decide to end their marriage. Divorce can also be known as dissolution or termination of a marriage or marital union. When this action takes place, it is recorded by a court or governmental body. In Pennsylvania, there are three ways a divorce is recorded. When requesting these documents, it can be important to know the difference between them to save time, money, and resources.

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 Pennsylvania Divorce Certificate?

    In the state of New York, divorce certificates have the least amount of information within, and are the most frequently requested out of the three types of records. A divorce certificate contains general information about the marriage and the divorce, stating the names of the involved parties and the date that the divorce took place. A divorce certificate is usually requested when a party wants to change their name or get a marriage certificate. In Pennsylvania, divorce certificates are available from the courthouse in the county where the marriage license was issued or the divorce was granted. This document is a public record, meaning it can be viewed online, but it can only be purchased by the parties or lawyers involved.

  • What is a Pennsylvania Divorce Decree?

    Divorce decrees in Pennsylvania are also considered public record. Divorce decrees contain all of the information that is in a divorce certificate, and also state the court’s judgments about the divorce and a case number. Usually, this document is requested when one of the parties wants to review their rights and responsibilities, or make changes to them. These rights and responsibilities include spousal and child support, child custody, schedules and terms for visitation, property division, insurance responsibilities, and debt division. In Pennsylvania, divorce decrees are available from the county clerk in the county where the divorce was finalized.

  • What is a Pennsylvania Divorce Record?

    A divorce record holds more information than both a divorce certificate and divorce decree. Contained in a divorce record is everything in the other two types of documents, plus every file, document, and judgement created as a result of the divorce process. A divorce record acts as the case record for a divorce. Upon getting a divorce, each party is given a copy of this document and it is recommended to keep it for personal records. This type of record can be obtained online in the same way one can obtain other public records. These records are not available through the Division of Vital Records. Instead, they are available from the county courthouse where the divorce was completed. The list of these courthouses is available online. There is also a live map of all the county courts of Pennsylvania. Only the parties involved can access these records.

Are Pennsylvania Divorce Records Public?

The Pennsylvania state open records law 65 Pa. Cons. Stat. Secs. 67.101 to 67.3104, also known as the Right to Know Act or the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law, is a series of laws created to assure that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in Pennsylvania.

Any citizen of the United States of America, including the citizens of Pennsylvania, may request public records. The records are often kept in the Prothonotary’s Office in the county where the divorce was filed and finalized, and this process has been in place since 1804. Because they are kept in the Prothonotary’s office, Pennsylvania divorce records and marriage records may also be available at the courthouse where the divorce was finalized. Most other requests are handled by the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records. In order to obtain general divorce records, it is necessary to contact the court in the Pennsylvania county where the divorce was finalized. Requesting parties can access a Pennsylvania divorce record through mail, fax, online websites, or in person.

How to Find Pennsylvania Divorce Records

Divorce records are public, but are often kept more secretive due to the personal nature of the subject. Because of this, further personal information is often required in order to search for and obtain divorce records. To obtain divorce records in Pennsylvania, one must make sure to be ready to provide:

  • A full given name and a photocopy of a valid photo identification
  • The spouse’s name involved in the divorce
  • The name of the county, city, or municipality where divorce was finalized
  • The year and month that the divorce was issued
  • The reason for accessing these records, and relation to the parties involved

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.

How to Find Pennsylvania Divorce Records by Mail

Requests and payment for records can be sent by mail. Together with a mail request, a payment in the form of a check or money order must be mailed to the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records.

Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records
P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103

Record requests are also available over the phone through the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Pennsylvania Department of Health
625 Forster St,
Harrisburg, PA 17120
(724) 656-3100

How to Find Pennsylvania Divorce Records Online

It is also possible to access divorce records in Pennsylvania online through the website of the courthouse or county seat where the divorce took place. These records may also be available through nongovernment third party websites, though record availability may vary. Some divorce records may remain sealed should sufficient cause be found. After receiving a records request, the government body in questions may determine that the record is unavailable or may take additional time to deliver. These reasons include:

  • There is information in the record that requires redaction
  • The records are stored in a distant or remote facility and will take additional time to deliver
  • Staffing restrictions dictate a time extension
  • The government body decides more legal knowledge of the record must be known before allowing the record to be seen by the public. In this instance further legal advice is sought
  • It is determined that the requestor did not follow rules regarding how to ask for records.
  • It is determined that the requestor did not pay the fees required for the request.

Divorce Rate in Pennsylvania

In recent years, divorce rates in Pennsylvania have been declining, but the state still has a relatively high divorce rate. In 2015, the divorce in Pennsylvania was 3.4 per 1,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By 2019, there were approximately 2.9 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants in Pennsylvania.

Several factors contribute to the high divorce rate in Pennsylvania. One of the most common reasons for divorce is marital infidelity. According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Institute for Family Studies, 22% of respondents said infidelity was a primary reason for their divorce.

Records of Pennsylvania divorce rates are generated and maintained at the state-wide level by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. They are also available from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Divorce statistics can be useful for a variety of purposes. They can help businesses decide where to locate, government officials plan social programs, and researchers study trends in family formation and dissolution.

Does Pennsylvania Recognize Common-Law Marriages?

The state of Pennsylvania recognizes common-law marriages created before 2005. Couples must be capable of marrying, which implies they must be at least 18 years old, which is the legal age of adulthood in the United States. Couples must have made an impression on the community. Both parties must produce adequate evidence to persuade the court of common law marriage, however in the situation of a deceased spouse, the other party might claim common law marriage based on cohabitation and the presentation of their relationship to the society. Married couples do not need a license, a party, an officiating priest, or eyewitnesses to marry. Couples who marry under common law have access to the same advantages as those who marry officially. Cohabiting does not automatically imply that a common-law marriage has been formed until certain conditions are satisfied.