Are Divorce Records Public in Texas?

are divorce records public

When a couple gets divorced, sensitive details and information about the couple may be shared with the family court. In a typical Texas divorce, the documents are accessible as public records. There are times when the divorce details are sealed through a court order, but most divorce decrees and case records are maintained by district or county clerks. In some cases, records are available on third-party websites.

The skilled and experienced Brazoria County divorce attorneys at Terry & Roberts can help you recognize what divorce records will be made public and how to access records or petition the court to seal a public divorce record.

The Different Types of Divorce Records

It is understandable to be concerned about the public having availability to your divorce records. Further, you may need to gain access to your various divorce records, yet finding and requesting access to them may be a challenge for someone not used to navigating the legal system in Texas.

Texas divorce records contain varying amounts of information depending on the record type.

There are three main types of divorce records:

  1. Divorce pleadings
  2. Divorce decrees
  3. Divorce motions and orders

These records each contain various amounts of sensitive information.

Texas has different regulations around each of these record types.

Divorce Pleadings

These legal documents initiate the divorce and may include the Original Petition for Divorce. Pleadings may detail the parties involved in the divorce and the witnesses. It may also identify assets, including:

  • Real property
  • Insurance policies
  • Shared bank accounts
  • Settlement agreements

Divorce Decree

The divorce decree signals the finalization of a divorce and is a document signed by a judge. The document outlines the terms for the former spouses to follow. These final judgments may include arrangements for support payments and details regarding how marital assets should be split and the division of marital debt. Parties need to request a copy of the decree to amend it in any way.

Divorce Case Record

public recordsThis usually is the totality of all the motions and orders of the divorce, including all the court filing and most of the details recorded during the divorce. These details can include:

  • Sensitive information from all filed motions
  • Details of minors involved in the case
  • Details concerning assets

Because of its level of detail about the case, this collection of records usually serves as the most concerning aspect of divorce documents being public.

Accessing Divorce Records

In most Texas counties, the district clerk’s office maintains and manages divorce records. Even when divorce records are public records, individuals are still required to file requests to see a divorce’s detailed documentation. These individuals must disclose and prove their relationship to the parties concerned with the divorce proceedings.

In some instances, a divorce proceeding’s case record may be considered public, and third parties would be able to locate and access the record. However, in most cases, the only people able to access a divorce decree are the spouses and the representative lawyers involved in the proceeding. The same usually goes for a divorce certificate.

Obtaining divorce or marriage documents requires individuals to contact the county or district clerk’s offices where they were divorced or the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (TDHHS). The TDHSS is the only place that can grant requests for divorce indexes and divorce verification letters. Usually, individuals can apply for divorce verification letters on the TDHSS website.

When applying for verification letters online, you will need to present the following:

  • Full names of individuals involved in the divorce
  • Age of the individuals at the time of marriage
  • Location and date of the divorce, such as city and/or county where the divorce was granted
  • Proof of the identity of the individual requesting the record
  • Any necessary fees involved

There are also third-party sites and portals to search public records, but because of the sensitive information, the availability of divorce records varies from site to site and can be hard to obtain.

Reasons to Access Divorce Records

property deedOne of the most common reasons people access their divorce records is because they want to get remarried and need to prove they were divorced.

Other reasons for acquiring divorce documents may include:

  • Proving marriage status for obtaining support from government agencies
  • Modifying child custody
  • Altering names on house deeds
  • Changing names on bank accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, or other important documents

If you only need to access minimal information concerning a divorce, the best option may be a divorce verification letter. This option verifies a divorce between two parties and avoids sharing details you would rather keep private.

Some other many other reasons to access divorce documents, including:

  1. Changing names: Changing names after a divorce is common. This is particularly true of women who seek to change their name back to their maiden name. In Texas, women have the option of reverting back to their maiden name during the divorce process. You’ll need to provide the divorce decree showing the change when applying for a new driver’s license or social security card.
  2. Employment: If people want their employer to update their employee records reflecting the divorce or if they changed their name. The employee will need to provide evidence to make these changes. Divorce verification letters are usually enough proof.
  3. Modifying an Order: In Texas, it is not easy to modify divorce decrees, but there are circumstances when motions need to be filed, or modifications need to be made to child custody or spousal agreements. A couple of reasons for these modifications include:
  • Relocation or moving
  • Changes in employment

Sealing Public Divorce Records

Under Texas law, any government information is automatically thought of as information belonging to the public. This is commonly referred to as an open records rule. Divorce records fall into these open records.

However, if it does not negatively affect health or safety, you can petition the court to seal the records.

You can choose whether to seal a whole record or just focus on the sensitive information contained in the documents. There are several reasons why an individual may want to seal divorce records, such as:

  • To highlight any documents containing sensitive data, such as dates of birth, personal addresses, and phone numbers
  • To honor confidentiality clauses in the divorce agreement
  • To hide identities from the public
  • To protect privacy from public access
  • To apply for a court protective order on the grounds that the documents contain details of a sensitive nature or sensitive criminal information

Get Experienced Guidance With All Aspects of Divorce

The Brazoria County divorce attorneys at Terry & Roberts are here to help you manage all aspects of your divorce proceedings, even long after the final decree is issued. We can assist you with finding the exact records you are looking for and the requirements needed to access the files.

We also work to protect your privacy and safety by helping you understand the confusing and complicated process of sealing previously public divorce records. The realization that divorce records are available to the public can be concerning. If you need a divorce record sealed, we can help build a compelling case for the courts to grant exemptions to the open record rule.

Contact us today to discuss the particular details of your situation so we can get to work finding the right solution for you.

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