When a spouse files for a legal separation, the case filing is recorded at the courthouse that has jurisdiction over the case. The spouse who has not filed for separation, the respondent, is then served with a summons to appear in court for a hearing. While state law provides appropriate ways for a spouse to be notified of a legal separation, others who have an interest in the case need to rely on their own research to find out if, and when, a person has filed for legal separation.
Determine which court or courts have jurisdiction over the couple that is the subject of your inquiry. Divorce and separation cases are usually heard at the county courthouse where one or the other spouse currently lives. If you will be searching court records, you may have to search in more than one county.
Look up the website of the county courthouse, if it has one, and determine whether its records are online. If they are, make sure you have the correct spelling of the names of both parties and perform a search. Since some filings may not yet be up on the website, check back if you don't find anything the first time. If the courthouse does not offer online access to its records, search the site for its access policy.
Visit the courthouse if the court records are not available online. In many cases, the court website will tell you where the records you seek are kept. Keeping in mind that you may need to go through a security screening at the courthouse, allow extra time for your courthouse visit.
Send a written request to the courthouse if you are unable to visit the courthouse yourself. There is usually a charge for a record search, so be sure to clarify both the amount of payment as well as the method of payment required.
Monitor the legal notices section of local newspapers. If one party to the separation cannot locate the other party, she may have to serve her spouse with notice via publication in a newspaper.
Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.