Divorce records

Family law

Are divorce records public?

Our family law experts outline what is public knowledge when it comes to divorce proceedings.

31 May 2022

Whether you’re concerned for your own privacy, or you’re interested in finding out more information about a divorce, you may be wondering ‘are divorce proceedings public record?’

Our experts clarify if divorce records are public and what your rights to privacy are.

Are divorce records public?

In the UK, only the final order (previously referred to as the decree absolute) is classified as a public record.

All other details, files and certificates – including the application (previously referred to as the petition) and the conditional order (previously referred to as the decree nisi) - are private and confidential.

Information in the final order includes:

  • The names of both parties
  • The date of marriage
  • Place of marriage
  • Details of the court granting the divorce

The final order doesn’t include any reference to financial or child arrangements, or any other personal data.

Are there any rights to privacy when it comes to divorce records?

When it comes to accessing certificates and decrees, once the divorce is finalised, and the final order issued, this becomes a public record. As a legal document, you can’t have a public record erased.

However, it’s important to note that as only the final order is classified as a public record, all other information pertaining to the divorce file is kept private and retained only by the court and the legal teams involved. They’ll have their own data storage policies, so it’s always best to speak to them directly if you have any questions about your data and privacy.

Can you find out if someone is divorced or get a copy of a final order?

Although a final order may be classed as a public record, it doesn’t mean it’s widely searchable or accessible to the general public.

Records of divorces granted in England and Wales between before 1937 are kept in the National Archive. For divorces after 1937, the Gov.UK website details how to get a copy of a final order.

For divorces in Scotland, you’ll need to contact the National Records of Scotland, and for divorces in Northern Ireland you’ll need to contact the court where the divorce was finalised.

You may also find UK divorce records from 1858 to 1916 on independent historical record sites, but fees may apply.

How can Slater and Gordon help?

If you’d like us to support you, we’re here to help. Our trusted team of family lawyers and divorce solicitors are experts in all elements of divorce law. You can also find further guidance over on our divorce page.

For more information, simply get in touch on 0330 041 5869, or, if you prefer, you can contact us via our online form or web chat.

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