Most court cases are a matter of public record and can be accessed through the court where your trial was processed. If you’re wondering whether San Diego, CA divorce records can be looked up, you’re at the right place!

In this article, we will lay down everything you need to know about looking up divorce records in San Diego, CA. We will look into factors like which documents of a divorce proceeding are public records, how to access these records, and how to keep private information out of the public record. We will also look at the types of documents that are involved in a divorce proceeding and how easily accessible each document is. 

Toward the end, we will also answer some of the most common questions people have regarding divorce and divorce documents.

Let’s dive right in.

Are divorce records public in San Diego, California?

Unless a divorce judge seals the records, California keeps marriage and divorce records publicly accessible. The documents in the majority of divorce proceedings are open to public inspection. 

Of course, there may be sensitive details in your divorce case. The court may grant the parties’ request to seal the documents or to redact some information. However, redaction requests must be justified by the parties, and courts rarely omit information only because it would make someone look bad.

This means that most of the details of your divorce proceeding are open to public scrutiny and anybody can look them up. That said, divorce records are significantly more difficult to obtain than other types of court records considering they may contain sensitive data like information about minors, domestic abuse, and financial data. 

You may benefit from this facility if you wish to verify a potential romantic partner before getting married. However, accessing someone else’s divorce records can be a tedious and time-consuming process.

If you want to access your own divorce records, though, the process might be easier. Let’s understand more about this by first understanding the types of documents involved in a divorce proceeding.

Documents involved in a divorce

The superior court has a number of responsibilities, including acting as the family court for the state of California and issuing divorce decrees (the ultimate court judgment that ends marriages). 

Remarkably, a divorce decree is only one out of the three documents that are a part of divorce proceedings. The other two documents include the certificate of divorce and the case file that contains all the details of the trial. 

Let’s understand more about all three documents and look at how accessible each one it to you and the public.

Divorce decree

In addition to including information regarding the divorce decision, a divorce decree is a document that contains similar details as the divorce certificate. This covers details about child custody arrangements, property divisions, and spousal support payments, including the timing and amount of support and alimony payments. 

The judge who presided over the case will endorse the decree and list the case number. 

Only the parties that registered the divorce petition (the responding spouse or the partner who filed the initial divorce application) can normally access this document along with their lawyers. If the divorcees want to modify their divorce agreement, they must ask for this document. 

The superior court administrators may permit qualified individuals to seek divorce decrees online in addition to using postal and in-person application methods.

Divorce certificate

The simplest and most typical divorce document is a divorce certificate, which is also the least detailed. In essence, it details the filing of divorce proceedings in California, the county in which the divorce was finalized, and the names of the parties. 

Typically, parties to a divorce agreement need a divorce certificate in order to alter their names or get married again. For instance, this document will be necessary when one of the divorced partners wants to modify the name on their driver’s license. 

This divorce paperwork is often only available to the ex-spouses and the attorneys who handled the divorce. However, in some situations, some states permit others to access the record.

Case file

The divorce record contains the most details. All court documents and files from the divorce proceeding are included in one document, together with all the information from the divorce certificate and decree. 

The divorce record is essentially the superior court’s case file. The court keeps this file around in case either of the parties who filed the divorce proceedings wants to contest the judgment in the future. Divorce records are accessible in a similar way to other publicly available information and are more accessible than other divorce-related documents. 

Requesters may be required to pay a charge for copies when requesting divorce records through the superior clerk’s offices in California. Clerk’s offices could have different levels of identification requirements and costs.

Now that we understand the three documents involved in a divorce proceeding, let’s take a look at how you can obtain these documents.

How to access public divorce records in CA

There are two primary ways you can access the public records of your or someone else’s divorce records in the state of California. One is by finding them online and the other is by requesting for them in person from the courthouse.

Let’s look at how both options work.

Searching for the records online

Marriage divorce documents created or preserved in California are open to the public per state law. As long as there is no statute, common law, or court ruling restricting access, people can request divorce records from governmental organizations. These organizations include the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the superior court clerk’s offices. However, the courts are the only government agencies that provide online access to dissolution records. An online resource that allows users to request or access divorce records can be found on the website of the relevant court clerk. The court clerk serves as the presiding divorce court’s administrative officer. 

A person will typically need the following details to search these databases: 


      • Name of each spouse in full

      • The county in which the divorce petition was lodged

      • Case number

      • The date of filing

    People can speed up the process of obtaining California divorce documents online by visiting third-party public document websites in addition to official government websites. These websites typically conduct a statewide inquiry for divorce records, allowing the user to, at the very least, pinpoint the county where the divorce was filed.

    Requesting them at the courthouse

    The courthouse has copies of all the paperwork a couple files for divorce. Additionally, you can obtain copies of every judgment handed down by the court, including the ultimate divorce decree. 

    All of the conditions of the divorce are outlined in the divorce decree, including: 


        • Child support

        • Parental assistance

        • Division of the property 

        • Alimony or assistance for a spouse

      Courts provide two different kinds of certified documents. The court’s seal is not present on informational copies. The court’s official records are authorized copies. 

      Only the people and the attorneys involved in the case are given access to authorized copies by the court.

      What is included in the public record?

      All information other than that which the judge or the spouses expressly exclude is contained in the divorce file. This implies that you will witness every aspect of the dissolution, including the way the parties came to their decisions. This includes details like: 


          • Parenting schedules 

          • Child assistance 

          • Real estate division 

          • Spousal assistance 

        You can examine information like the children’s ages and names, the financial data needed to calculate alimony and child support, and a breakdown of the assets the couple owns.

        How is private information handled in public records?

        The parties can prevent some data from being made public during a litigation. The following are the categories of data that a court will not divulge to the general public.

        Information that is mandatory to redact

        Social Security information and bank account numbers are prohibited from being included in court documents under California court regulations. 

        If the parties must provide this data in a court document, they must first create a confidential statement incorporating the information and then redact it from the court papers. 

        Information that the parties agree to redact

        The participants to a divorce may agree to keep certain facts private. For instance, both partners might choose to maintain the privacy of their bank and credit card statements, business evaluations, and other financial data. 

        Most of the time, you are unable to retrieve this data because it was never made public.

        Sealed records

        Divorce records are not typically sealed by courts. However, under exceptional circumstances, a party may petition the court to classify particular papers or your case as a whole. 

        The party must explain why the record should be sealed. Record sealing would generally not be justified on the grounds of privacy or humiliation. 

        A court may seal some files, such as those that: 


            • Contain health-related data

            • Identify the minor kids

            • Make a domestic violence claim

          Even in these situations, the court must weigh the parties’ objectives in keeping the information private against the presumption in favor of keeping them public. 

          You can ask a court to open a record using a petition. However, you must provide arguments that refute the initial justifications offered for sealing it.

          Who can access the public divorce records in California?

          While divorce records, like other court records, are accessible to the public, they do contain information that may be more sensitive than other cases. For this reason, not anybody can access someone’s divorce documents even if the case is a matter of public record. This is especially true for documents like the divorce certificate or decree.

          According to California law, in order to get a certified divorce decree, a person must fall within any of the following categories: 


              1. Participate in the divorce as a named party. 

              1. Be a named party’s parent or legal guardian. 

              1. Be a named party’s current spouse. 

              1. Be a named party’s domestic partner. 

              1. Be a specified party’s sibling. 

              1. Be a specified party’s child. 

              1. Be a specified party’s grandparent. 

              1. Act as an authorized or legitimate agent for a specific party. 

            To get a divorce decree, the state needs a notarized affidavit demonstrating the person’s power.

            The court’s case file, however, may be accessible to someone who is not a party to the case, given that they satisfy the court clerk’s identification requirements. They may, however, be liable to pay certain fees to obtain copies of the divorce record.

            Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

            Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions. If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, you can always contact us to learn more.

            How can I find out the court’s address and fee details for obtaining a public divorce record?

            Every California County Superior Court’s address can be found online, along with the required paperwork and fees for requesting a certified copy.

            What information do I need to be able to find a divorce record?

            Therequestor must at least know the names of the respondents to the divorce, the court where it was registered, the date of registration, and the case number the judge gave the divorce. 

            How will I receive the divorce records?

            You can either order the registered divorce decree via the internet or personally at the relevant county courthouse. When ordering online, the requestor will receive the document by mail. While the requestor waits, a copy of the requested document may be obtained at the courthouse. The record will be mailed to the requestor if processing the records search will take more than a few hours.

            Wrapping up

            You now know the documents involved in a divorce proceeding, the level of privacy afforded to the respondents in the case, and how you may obtain a public divorce record. You also know what information can be kept confidential even in a public record and what information is usually included in the case file by default. 

            If you would like to keep your divorce information private altogether, though, the best way is to avoid a court trial altogether and enter into a collaborative divorce. Our experienced San Diego, CA family law attorneys can give you an added advantage when it comes to divorce. Contact us today for a free consultation!