What are Arizona Divorce Records?
A marriage in Arizona can be terminated by either an annulment, legal separation, or a divorce. A divorce is a legal procedure that ends a valid marriage—officially termed “dissolution of marriage” in the state. In Arizona, there are 8.0 divorces per every 1,000 women above 15 years of age.
Arizona is predominantly a no-fault divorce state. This means that the petitioning party is not required to present evidence of wrongdoing by the partner to be granted a divorce. It is more difficult to obtain a divorce for a covenant marriage in Arizona. The process also differs a bit from a formal marriage.
There is a 60-day waiting period from the date a petition was filed. After this period, the process of divorce begins. How much longer it takes to be granted one depends on the number of factors:
- Length of the marriage, if the marriage is short term, divorce will be quicker and easier. Marriages that have lasted longer take much longer
- Presence of minors in the union, a marriage with no children is easier to dissolve than one with children, especially minors.
- The extent of property and debts, the fewer, the easier they would be to divide. Arizona supports a 50/50 divide for long term marriages.
- Whether the divorce is contested or not. A contested divorce means that both involved persons have dissenting opinions on getting a divorce, or on issues such as child custody, property settlements, etc. The more the points of disagreement, the longer a divorce process may take.
Family judges preside over divorce suits at the Superior Courts across the state of Arizona. Although there is a general pattern to the process of divorce, counties vary slightly in the procedure. Divorce is said to be final when the presiding judge signs the divorce decree. After that, the case records are forwarded to the Superior Court Clerk’s office in the county. There, they are maintained, and copies are issued upon request to interested parties.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
Are Divorce Records Public in Arizona?
Although a divorce record is a personal record, it is open to the public via court access in Arizona. This is important for the transparency of the legal process in the state. However, information on probate and juvenile matters in the record is sealed by statute from public access under confidential rules of the Supreme Court of Arizona.
Records of 50 years and above are kept at the Arizona State Archives by default. Not all counties in the state do this, so it is best to contact the Clerk of the court of interest to determine where the record is located.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
What are the types of Divorce Records available in Arizona?
The critical components of a divorce record in Arizona are a divorce decree, a divorce certificate, and accompanying documents generated during the divorce proceeding. Custody agreement and property settlement are accompanying documents of significance in Arizona.
A copy of the divorce record may be issued as a certified copy or a plain copy. Although both copies are issued at specified fees, certified copies represent a state validation of the document. These documents are issued only to the persons named in the record. Plain copies lack legal significance; therefore, these copies are released to other interested parties, solely for information.
A divorce decree is a summary document that represents a court ruling on a divorce case. The signature of the presiding judge on the document says that the divorce is finalized. The record also contains court decisions on child custody, visitation arrangements, division of assets and liabilities, spousal maintenance, restraining orders, and other resolutions concerning the divorce.
In Arizona, the divorcing parties can agree on the issues mentioned above. The parties put it into writing as a ‘consent decree’ and present it to the presiding judge. A divorce decree is binding on both parties. Copies of the decree are issued only to the involved parties.
On the other hand, a certificate of divorce is a single-paged document that legally pronounces a person as divorced. It is prepared along with the divorce decree at the Superior Court handling the case. It states the parties’ full names, the date of the divorce, and the county where the event took place. As is with the divorce decree, certified copies are available only to the persons named in the record.
How Do I Get Divorce Records in Arizona?
Divorce records are a subset of Superior Court records. Therefore the same rule applies to access any court record in Arizona. All records of cases handled by the Superior Court are maintained at the court clerk’s office. Access to a divorce record can mean viewing or obtaining copies. Interested parties can visit the Superior Court Clerk’s office, where the divorce was finalized to get information about the case of interest.
Use the AZ Courts Locator to determine the address of the court of interest. Counties like Maricopa and Phoenix, also offer online court access and requests modes other than in-person. Some other counties do not. It is best to confirm from the court clerk before making a request.
The Supreme Court of Arizona maintains an online database of court records for Supreme Court cases and Superior Court cases known as eAccess. Again, not all counties have their records on the database. Use the complete listing of Superior Court Clerk’s offices to determine which county has online access. eAccess provides a 24-hour service to requesters for a fee. To search for a record, have the names of the divorced parties, the case ID, and the county where the event took place. Interested persons can also access court records through the Public Access case Lookup. Please note that divorce courts containing adoption or juvenile information are not open to the public.
The Arizona State Library, Archives,& Public Records keeps court records older than 50 years. The location of the library is at:
Records Management Center
Polly Rosenbaum Archives and History Building
1901 W. Madison Street
Phoenix, AZ 85009
Visitation is strictly by appointment. Contact the Center by calling (602) 926–3720 or sending an email.
Divorce records are not registered with the Bureau of Vital Records in the state. Requests made to the vital records office at the Arizona Department of Health are redirected to the Superior Court Clerk at the county where the case was filed.
While divorce and marriage records may be searched through government sources and organizations, the availability of these documents cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these entities are not government-sponsored; therefore, record availability may vary further. Also, note that marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information the records contain, and are often sealed. Hence, bearing in mind that these factors determine the availability of any type of marriage or divorce record.
Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in Arizona?
Divorce records are open in Arizona; therefore, anyone of legal age can access plain copies for information. Certified copies are restricted to the bearers of the record and any other individual with a court order.
Are Arizona Divorce Records available online?
Arizona court records of 153 out of 180 trial courts in the state are available online through a Public Access Case Lookup. Online access in some county websites is redirected to the same online resource. Not all counties have their records on the database, so it is best to obtain information about each county. Although some third party websites also provide information about Arizona divorce cases. However, the information provided cannot be authenticated or certified.
How Do I Seal My Divorce Records in Arizona?
Certain parts of a divorce record are sealed from public access by default. These include financial statements, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, information about under-aged children, details of a victim of abuse, and probate matters.
Occasionally, the entire record may need to be sealed. Either the involved parties or the court can initiate this step. If the judge deems it fit to preserve the privacy or rights of any of the parties, a court order may be issued to seal the record. Also, an involved party can file a petition with the same court in charge of the case to have his or her record sealed. Such a request is premised upon mutual agreement between both parties. The judge decides if the reason for the request is reasonable and consents by issuing a court order. Court personnel are not authorized to provide information to the public on sealed records.