How to Obtain Divorce Records in Philadelphia

By Kimberlee Leonard - Updated April 11, 2017
Philadelphia City Hall will send you copies upon request.

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Divorce decrees and all accompanying paperwork filed as part of divorce proceedings are part of Philadelphia's public record system. Records are available to anyone who wishes to perform and pay for the search and subsequent copies at City Hall. That said, while the records are public information, they are subject to the state's Right-to-Know Law. It is prohibited to use them in a harassing way or to burden the public records office with unreasonable requests.

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For hours of operation, to schedule an appointment or other questions, contact City Hall directly at 215-686-3805. Older records require more time to locate, so plan ahead to expedite the process.

Request in Person

The Office of Judicial Records Civil Filing Unit is located in City Hall, Room 296 at Broad and Market Streets. Without an appointment, prepare to stand in line until the clerk is available. Depending on the records’ age, clerks may re-direct your request to the Philadelphia Records Archives. Archives are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with the exception of observed holidays.

Complete a "registration slip" which will allow you access to the archives. The registration slip includes your information as well as both names and the date of the divorce (or a five-year window). The search is $10 per certificate or $10 per three-month window. Copy fees are $1 per page, with a $2 minimum.

It can take hours to locate the reels and then go through the slides that must remain on premises. Plan time accordingly. Archive copies from microfilm cost 75 cents per page.

Request by Mail

For any divorce filed in Philadelphia County from 1885 to present, mail requests for certified copies are accepted. Include the name of both spouses, using married last names. Provide the exact year of the divorce. If that is not available, provide a five-year window for the clerk to conduct the search. Include with the written request a self-addressed, stamped envelop along with payment. A money order or certified check made payable to "Office of Judicial Records" in the amount of $41.58 is the only acceptable form of payment.

Mail the request to: Office of Judicial Records, Civil Filing Unit, Certifications, Room 296, City Hall, Broad & Market Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19107.

Best Practices to Get Records

For extremely old, large or complex records, it's best to make an appointment so staff can adequately assist in the search. Start searches no later than 4:30 p.m. to complete before closing. As in all public record searches, expect delays if you don’t have exact information.

Hiring Someone to Get Records

While City Hall should have all pertinent records, there are alternative solutions. Attorneys do archive records for several years, and many newer records may be digital. If a certified copy isn't required and the record in needed urgently, this might be the fastest option.

Most private investigators and many online public record providers can also get you a copy of the decree. Keep in mind that they go through the same process to obtain the decree that you would but add extra fees for their time and service. Fees and quality of service range widely.

About the Author

Kimberlee Leonard had a successful career in financial services, insurance and tax preparation before becoming a full-time writer. She has worked with major institutions such as Wells Fargo, First Hawaiian Bank and State Farm.

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