Most divorce records are public in Massachusetts. Some are available online, while all can be obtained in person, by phone or by mail from the probate and family court in the county in which the spouses last lived as a couple. Look for free, but you'll pay for copies.
Content of Divorce Records in Massachusetts
Divorce records contain both essential legal information and very private information. Valid reasons exist for members of the public to be able to determine whether someone was divorced and when. But the details of a divorce, such as property settlement and issues involving children, can feel very personal to the people involved.
Who is Entitled to See the Records?
Some states, like California, allow only the divorcing spouses, their families and attorneys to obtain copies of divorce judgments. Members of the public are entitled to see only certificates stating the names and dates of divorces. Other states, such as Rhode Island, make vital records public only decades after the event.
Still other states opt to make all divorce records public unless a party requests that the divorce matters be sealed. Massachusetts is one of these states. Generally, Massachusetts divorce court records are available to the public unless sealed. However, financial details are often available only to the couple and their representatives.
Availability of Public Divorce Records
The Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics manages centralized divorce records in the state. Vital Records and Statistics is a division of the Office of Health and Human Services.
The registry has an index of divorce records beginning in 1952 and going through the present. However, this is only an index, and the records may contain inaccuracies.
Finding Divorce Records for Free
Your best bet to locate free Massachusetts public divorce records is to visit the appropriate probate and family court. Most such records in this state are filed not in the county where the divorce was finalized but in the county where the couple last lived together.
Some probate and family courts provide online access to divorce records. One place to try is the Massachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access website. However, the site doesn't guarantee the accuracy of its records.
You can also go to the website of the appropriate probate and family court, or you can contact the court by phone or by mail. Online and walk-in access is free. Just give the clerk the relevant names and dates to see the file. But if you want copies, you'll probably have to pay.
Commercial Online Services
Some commercial online services will find and copy the divorce information you are interested in, but expect to pay. One service charges between $35 and $150, depending on which documents you want.
- OnlineSearches.com: Massachusetts Divorce Records Directory
- Massachusetts Documents Retrieval: Divorce Certificate Application
- Massachusetts Document Retrieval: Massachusetts Divorce Records
- Massachusetts Court System: Probate & Family Court Department
- Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services: Registry of Vital Records
- Next Phase Legal: Are Massachusetts Divorce Records Public?
- US Supreme Court image by dwight9592 from Fotolia.com