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How to Find a Divorce Record in Washington

Divorce occurs when two married people decide to reverse their decision to be married. Divorce is also known as marriage dissolution. In the State of Washington, divorces cases are typically a matter of Family Court or Civil Court, which is a division of the Washington Superior Court system, which is also known as general jurisdiction courts. Records of Washington divorce cases filed after 1968 are held in and maintained by the Washington Department of Health (WDH). Divorce cases finalized prior to 1968 are kept by the county clerk of the Washington county in which the divorce was concluded. Members of the public who wish to access these records should be aware that this action is recorded in three ways, and their purpose varies. This knowledge will help accelerate the process of obtaining the correct form of divorce record.

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 are Washington Divorce Certificates?

    A divorce certificate is the simple statement that a divorce occurred, containing the names of the two parties who have been divorced as well as when and where the divorce was concluded. Often, this form of divorce record is requested when one of the parties wishes to change their name. It is also required when one of the parties wants to acquire a new marriage certificate. Washington considers these records public and, unless sealed by the court judge, they are accessible by the public to search for and view.

  • What are Washington Divorce Decrees?

    Divorce decrees in Washington contain more detailed information than divorce certificates. Along with the names of parties, the date, and location, a divorce decree also holds information regarding the final judgments in the case and includes a case number and signature from the judge. The judgments stated in this document can encompass any information regarding custody and child support, apportionment of property, and alimony payments.

  • What are Washington Divorce Records?

    Divorce records are a more detailed document than both a divorce certificate and a divorce decree. The parties who were involved in the divorce may use these records to challenge any of the agreements listed within them, so it is often suggested that they keep them for personal record to use when filing for a change. A divorce record not only holds all the same information as the two previous documents, but also every file, report, and transcript produced during the case. Divorce records can be accessed and viewed by members of the public because they are considered family court cases, but only the two participants in the divorce, along with their attorneys, can obtain certified copies.

Are Washington Divorce Records Public Records?

Washington divorce records should always be available to the public unless sealed by a judge or court order. Any person can order certified copies of divorce certificates, and when requesting through the WDH, it is not necessary to provide valid identification. These records can be viewed and obtained online through state portals, by mail, or in-person. According to the Washington State Court General Rule GR 31, it is policy that courts assist in the access of court records. This rule also states that there are exceptions and some records may not be available due to personal privacy rights.

How to Obtain Washington Family Court Records

In order for a member of the public to access a divorce record that is held in the state of Washington:

  1. Determine if the divorce was finalized before or after 1968.
  2. If it is before, these records can be found in the Superior Court Clerk’s Office of the county where the divorce took place.
  3. Follow the instructions provided on the superior court website of the county where the divorce was concluded. Fees vary from county to county.
  4. If the answer is after, the requesting party must search through the WDH.
  5. To access a divorce record through the WDH, a completely filled out request form is required.

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. Although Washington provides search portals for many state records, it may still be necessary to submit a request in person or by mail as divorce records can prove difficult to acquire due their personal nature and tendency to involve minors, financial information, or abuse. The fee for these records vary depending on if they are requested over the phone, by mail, or in-person.

Ordering Washington Divorce Records by Mail

To order a divorce certificate in Washington using the mail, it is necessary to submit a request form with all necessary identification and fees associated with the request. Each document requested requires a separate request form. For divorces filed after 1968, mail the request form to:

Center for Health Statistics
Department of Health
PO Box 9709
Olympia WA 98507-9709

If the record was filed before1968, mail in the request to the address of the clerk of court in the county where the divorce occured. Turnover time for ordering by mail is 6-8 weeks.

Ordering Washington Divorce Records In-Person

To access divorce records in-person through the Department of Health, visit the Customer Service Counter in the office located at:

Center for Health Statistics
Department of Health
101 Israel Road SE
Tumwater, WA 98501

The office is open from 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding state holidays. Usually, requesting these documents in-person results in same day service, but visiting after 4:00 p.m. may not yield the same results.

Ordering Washington Divorce Records Online

Washington provides the option of searching for and ordering divorce records online through their case records page using the names of the parties and the case number. It has been reported that this portal may periodically not function properly. Washington Courts also provides alternatives to their own record search program, but suggested portals may be third party websites, and as such, record availability is not guaranteed. To find records finalized within King County, requesting parties must visit the King County Clerk’s Record Access Portal.

How Much Do Washington Divorce Records Cost?

The cost of accessing certified copies of divorce records in Washington vary depending on how they are ordered. For walk-in service, the Department of Health accepts fees paid with cash, checks, money order, MasterCard and Visa. Ordering by mail requires a check or money order. All checks and money orders should be made out to the Department of Health. Ordering these records by phone necessitates an electric payment using MasterCard or Visa. The cost of walk-in services and ordering records by mail is $20.00. When ordering divorce records over the phone, requesting parties will be charged $31.50.

Does Washington Recognize Common-Law Marriage?

Washington only recognizes common-law marriages that are formed in any state that supports this type of union. For a couple to be married in Washington, they must have a marriage license and ceremony. Washington recognizes domestic partnership, so long as one partner is over 62 years of age. The State also allows relationships similar to common law marriage, called committed intimate relationships. Such relationships may be used as a basis for legal decisions and administering of marital rights. Some of the factors a court might consider when determining the nature of the relationship include:

  • The length of the relationship
  • Whether the couples cohabit
  • If the relationship was exclusive
  • How each partner benefitted from the relationship
  • The commitment of both partners to the relationship
  • If the partners shared and contributed resources such as running a joint account.