How to Find a Divorce Record in New Jersey
In New Jersey, divorce is legally referred to as a “dissolution case” by the courts. To initiate the divorce process in New Jersey, a spouse must file original divorce papers in court. A divorce case falls under the purview of the Family Division of a Superior Court. After a divorce is finalized and the case is closed, the case is then archived. The time between finalization and archiving differs depending on the county.
Divorce or dissolution of marriage records are considered court records. They may therefore be searched on third-party public record websites. Dissolution of marriage 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.
Are New Jersey Divorce Records Public?
Yes. Divorce or dissolution of marriage records are considered public records in New Jersey, but access requires submission of an application along with the required fees. The State of New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) allows members of the public to access records that are considered public and requirements for the process of accessing them. This law is lengthy, so the state also provides a User’s Guide to the Open Public Records Act to outline the act in a more comprehensible way.
Generally, to access a divorce record, the New Jersey State Vital Records Office is not an option. Instead, it is necessary to acquire divorce documents from the Superior Court of New Jersey Records Center or the Court Clerk from where the case was heard. To gather more information on obtaining a New Jersey divorce record, individuals can call the Records Center at (609) 421-6100.
What is a Divorce Certificate?
A divorce certificate proves that a divorce took place. This document contains the names of the parties along with the date and location where the divorce was finalized. Divorce certificates are often used to prove that a divorce happened and are commonly requested when one of the parties wishes to alter their name as it appears on their identification or file to receive a marriage certificate.
Unlike a divorce decree or record, a divorce certificate reveals general information about a divorce agreement. For the parties involved in the divorce, it is easy to access the divorce certificate. Members of the public must usually submit a written request and fee to obtain a divorce certificate.
What are New Jersey Divorce Decrees?
Divorce decrees are a bit more specific than divorce certificates because they include the names, date and location, plus the final judgment and agreements in a divorce case. This includes but is not limited to custody arrangements, property allocation, alimony payments, child support, and agreements surrounding scheduling issues. However, the terms contained in a divorce decree can be reconsidered when certain changes occur with one of the divorced parties.
It should be noted that divorce decrees cannot be accessed through the New Jersey Vital Records Office, but instead are made available by the Superior Court of New Jersey Records Center. However, it is possible to access a divorce decree online in New Jersey.
What are New Jersey Divorce Records?
A divorce record or a dissolution of marriage record comprises all divorce documents in a particular divorce case, from the filed original divorce papers to the divorce decree. It serves as the case file for a New Jersey dissolution case. It contains all the information listed previously, but also includes every record, document, and transcript generated throughout a dissolution case. Both parties are given a copy of this record and advised to keep it, in case they later wish to alter it in some way.
How to Find Public Divorce Records Online
Most county clerk's offices provide search tools that can be used to find public divorce records online. Anyone interested in public divorce records can visit these websites to search the database provided by the county clerk's office. Also, local courts may offer an online search for divorce records on their websites.
Divorce records in New Jersey can also be accessed online via third-party sites, often after paying a fee.
Note that government public record search portals and third party public record websites may both provide court records search tools, which can help search divorce records in New Jersey. However, record availability usually varies widely. Divorce records in particular may simply not be available through either source.
Obtaining Divorce Records Through the Superior Court of New Jersey Records Center
If a dissolution case file is not accessible through the county clerk in the county where the divorce was finalized, it may be necessary to obtain a divorce record through the Superior Court of New Jersey Records Center. However, one must ensure that the divorce occurred long ago that it will be archived there instead of kept at the County Clerk’s Office. To find this out, make sure to have access to the year the divorce was finalized, along with the county where it was finalized. The most efficient way to obtain a divorce record from the Records Center is to visit in person at:
Clerk of the Superior Court Public Information Center
171 Jersey Street
P.O. Box 967
Trenton, NJ 08625-0967
The cost of one copy of a divorce record from the Superior Court of New Jersey Records Center is $10. Make sure to have a check or money order payable to the New Jersey Clerk of the Superior Court.
Obtaining New Jersey Divorce Records Through the County Court Clerk
If a divorce record is not available through the Superior Court of New Jersey Records Center, it is likely that it may still be maintained at the county clerk’s office. To obtain a divorce record through the county clerk, visit the website of the county where the divorce was finalized. For example, if someone wishes to access a divorce record from Bergen County after the year 2015, they would need to visit the Bergen County website to search. This is a similar process with most New Jersey county websites. Essex County, for instance, has a webpage called OPRA Request. These portals allow for records to be regulated and dispersed in a more efficient way and without time limits. It is recommended when beginning a search that this be the first destination, as it can help narrow the options available.
How to Find Out if Someone is Divorced in New Jersey
Publicly available divorce records are also managed and disseminated by some third-party aggregate sites. These sites are generally not limited by geographical record availability and may serve as a reliable jump-off point when researching specific or multiple records. However, third-party sites are not government-sponsored. As such, record availability may differ from official channels. The requesting party will be required to provide the following information to find a record using the search engines on third party sites:
- The location of the record in question, including the city, county, or state where the case was filed.
- The name of someone involved, providing it is not a juvenile.
Can New Jersey Divorce Records Be Sealed?
Yes. Per Section 47:1A-5 of the State of New Jersey Open Public Records Act, the court records custodian is in charge of redacting specific information from government records before allowing others to access them. If a record includes social security number, credit card number, phone number, or driver’s license number, that information will be redacted before access. Other grounds for redaction include protecting the identity of minors or protecting the identity and details about a victim of domestic violence or abuse of any kind. If the record does not include these details, both parties involved in the divorce are required to agree to sealing a record or redacting certain sections of it. Oftentimes, it is easier to redact certain information than to completely seal a record that is deemed public.
Does New Jersey Recognize Common-Law Marriages?
Following the passage of a law in 1939, common-law marriages in New Jersey are not recognized. Relationships formed after 1939 must have an official marriage certificate and a ceremony that complies with New Jersey law to be recognized legally. Common-law partners cannot obtain the same rights as married couples in New Jersey just by cohabiting for a specified period of time. For example, special regulations permit divorced spouses to receive alimony if they meet specific criteria. On the other hand, common-law partners are not eligible for financial assistance under the same legal framework. Additionally, the “equitable distribution” statutes that govern property allocation in divorce do not apply to property division between cohabiting common-law couples.
How to Get a Divorce in New Jersey
Anyone in New Jersey can get a divorce for one of the following reasons:
- Irreconcilable differences
- Extreme cruelty
- Habitual drunkenness or drug addiction
- Imprisonment, and
Generally, to file for a divorce in New Jersey, individuals must meet the state's residency requirement for the case to be heard. Per Section 2A:34-10 of the New Jersey Statutes, either spouse must have been living in the state for a minimum of one year before filing original divorce papers in court. However, if the basis for the divorce is adultery, the state only requires either spouse to be a New Jersey resident. The length of residency is not vital. Besides fulfilling the state's residency requirements, spouses must also have a legally acceptable reason (ground) to file for a divorce.
After filing divorce papers in a Superior Court, the petitioning spouse (the plaintiff) must serve the divorce papers on their spouse (the respondent or defendant)
Depending on the stand of spouses, the divorce could be uncontested (when spouses accept the terms of the divorce) or contested (when spouses argue on at least one divorce issue). Regardless, the divorce case will be heard at the Superior Court and may be determined via a divorce agreement (settlement out of court) or through a trial. After the conclusion of a case, a divorce decree that spells out the divorce terms and a divorce certificate that confirms the marriage dissolution will be issued to the involved parties. More information about New Jersey's divorce process can be obtained from the state judiciary's website.