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How to Find a Divorce Record in Kentucky
In Kentucky, divorce records describe all the documents which contain information related to the dissolution of legal marriages finalized in the state. There are three major types of divorce documents. These are divorce certificates, divorce decrees, and divorce Records.
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 Divorce Certificate?
A Kentucky divorce certificate is a vital document that contains information about a divorce finalized in a state. Of all the available legal documents regarding the divorce, this contains the least information. Typically the information contained in a divorce certificate are the:
- names of the parties to the divorce, including maiden names.
- time of the divorce.
- location of the divorce.
In the State of Kentucky, a divorce certificate is issued by the Office of Vital Statistics of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. It is also available from the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court where the divorce was granted and can be obtained by anyone who can provide enough information for a record search and pay the required fees.
What is a Divorce Decree?
A divorce decree is a legal document issued by a court establishing the dissolution of a marriage and providing details of the terms of the dissolution. It is also referred to as the “Judgment”. A divorce decree contains all the information included in a divorce certificate as well as the terms of the settlement agreed to by both parties to the divorce. Such terms include details of:
- Spousal and child support
- Custody and visitation rights regarding minor children
- Debt responsibilities
- Asset division
In Kentucky, a divorce decree is issued by the Family Court division of the Circuit Court that heard the case and issued the judgment. Divorce decrees are typically only available to either party listed on the decree, their immediate family members, and their authorized legal representatives.
What is a Divorce Record?
A divorce record represents the complete legal case file of the dissolution of a marriage. A divorce record will have all the information contained in a divorce certificate and a divorce decree. It will also contain all other documents introduced by either party during the divorce proceedings. A complete divorce record is in the custody of the court which heard the case and gave the final judgment.
Are Divorce Records Available to the Public in Kentucky?
Divorce records in Kentucky are created through the public court system. Accordingly, they are considered public records and are available to members of the public. Anyone requesting divorce records in Kentucky will need to provide the following identifying information about the record:
- Full names of both parties to the divorce (including maiden names)
- Month, day, and year the divorce was finalized
- County where the judgment was granted
- Address where the record should be mailed
By default, Kentucky divorce records are not filed under seal when the final judgment is issued. For a divorce record to be filed under seal, an order must be issued by the court which issued the judgment. For this to happen, both parties to the divorce must agree to it and a motion must be filed with the court requesting the records to be sealed. The motion must provide the reasons for the request, should be narrowly tailored, and not seek to seal off more information than is necessary. The motion will be heard by a judge, who will decide whether or not the motion should be granted. Reasons which can lead a judge to order the filing of a record under seal include to:
- Protect the identity of children
- Protect victims of domestic violence
- Protect sensitive or confidential financial information such as bank account details
- Protect proprietary business information
- Prevent the release of false allegations which can be considered libelous
Typically, if the motion is granted, a judge will only order the sealing off as much information as is required to address the privacy concerns in question. A Kentucky divorce record that has been filed under seal is only available to either of the parties listed on the record and their authorized representatives.
How to Obtain Kentucky Divorce Certificates?
In Kentucky, a divorce certificate is obtained by submitting a record request to the Office of Vital Statistics. The Office of Vital Statistics retains all divorce records in Kentucky since June 1958. For records prior to this date, contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court that finalized the judgment. Members of the public can request a copy of a Kentucky divorce certificate by submitting applications online, in person, or by mail.
The Office of Vital Statistics charges a $6 fee for the search, certification, and provision of each copy of a Kentucky divorce certificate. It issues no refunds for records that are not found.
A mail request should include a completed Application For A Certified Copy Of Divorce Certificate form and a check or money order for the fee (made payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer). Send the completed form and payment to:
Office of Vital Statistics
Cabinet of Health and Family Services
275 East Main Street, 1E-A
Frankfort, KY 40621
Note that mail requests may take up to 30 days to process.
An in-person request should include a completed application and the appropriate fee. Bring these to the Office of Vital Statistics in Frankfort, KY. For in-person requests, cash payments are accepted (in addition to checks and money orders). Customer service hours are between 8:00 a.m. and 3.30 p.m., Mondays to Fridays (except for state holidays).
How to Obtain Kentucky Divorce Court Records?
Complete Kentucky divorce court records consist of a divorce decree and other documents that were introduced during the divorce case proceedings. These are maintained by the Kentucky Family Courts where the proceedings were held. A copy of the divorce decree is typically issued to both parties in a divorce through their attorneys upon the finalization of a marriage dissolution.
To obtain copies of a divorce court record, contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court that granted the divorce. The fees for obtaining the record will be determined by the court and may vary from court to court. Contact the appropriate court beforehand to ascertain the current fee.
When requesting divorce records, send a written request to the Office of the Court Clerk. This should provide the following information:
- Names of both parties to the divorce
- Court case number
- Day, month, and year of the divorce
- The location of the divorce
Alternatively, the requester should visit the Office of the Circuit Court Clerk and file a request in person.
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.
Does Kentucky Recognize Common-Law Marriage
Kentucky common-law marriages created within the state aren't considered valid. However, unions made by couples in other supporting states are considered valid. Kentucky recognizes the union of couples who enter into a legal common-law marriage before moving. Common law marriages are arrangements in which a couple who cohabit for a period, performs duties and obligations of legally married couples such as sharing the last name and filing joint tax returns. They are also recognized by friends, family, and their community as married. Such arrangements may become complicated in instances of sharing properties in places like Kentucky.