Monday, November 17, 2008

Question about availability of divorce records

A email reference question today from a student working on an Anthro paper requested assistance in finding actual divorce proceedings cases from the 1960s to "modern times." The student had tried Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw Campus without success. In case this comes up again, I thought I would share what I learned.

I learned that these databases do not provide these proceedings for a number of general they are decided in Family Court or Domestic Relations Courts, and the decisions are not available in the databases. Although I didn't check all 50 states and the District of Columbia, I learned that New York State Consolidated Laws on Domestic Relations states that divorce/dissolution of marriage rulings/decisions are to be kept private and only the court and the parties have access to the information. And, such records are to be private for 100 years. I am sure that there are many policy reasons for these decisions..the financial information and relationship/behavior of the parties, and minor children whose lives could be impacted.

However, sometimes one of the parties appeals the decision to a higher court, and these rulings are available. I tried in Westlaw Campus, "dissolution of marriage," and "child support", and limited my cases to state court in New York. There were 15 cases in the last 3 year.

There are many law review journal articles that are written on this topic but the student didn't specify what s/he was trying to locate.

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