Divorce records in Massachusetts are useful for a number of reasons. Most importantly, you need your decree of divorce to handle legal and personal matters after getting divorced in Massachusetts. Your divorce certificate often needs to be included with applications to change your name at various locations, such as the Social Security Administration, the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the bank. Furthermore, a copy of divorce papers should always be kept in your files so that you can refer to important information such as custody agreements, property settlements and more. Massachusetts divorce documents are also useful if you need to access records for informational purposes. In most cases, marriage and divorce records in MA are open to the public for research purposes. In the sections below, learn how to get a copy of divorce decree documents for your own records and how to search through public record divorce cases for informational purposes.
How to Find Divorce Records in Massachusetts
You can find divorce records in Massachusetts in several places. The best place to search divorce records will depend on what type of divorce document you need and how recent the record is. When you need a copy of your divorce papers for your personal use, it is best to contact the Probate and Family Court that handled your case. Local courts maintain a number of records that you may need following your own divorce.
A divorce search can also be performed at local courthouses in Massachusetts when you need a copy of divorce records for genealogical studies or other research. Massachusetts divorce records date back as early as 1639. Many of the earliest divorce court records are maintained in archives by the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, among other departments.
When you are searching divorce records in Massachusetts for informational purposes only, you may not need to use courthouse archives as your main source of information. A divorce record search can be conducted at the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS) for divorces that occurred from the year 1952 through the present. However, it is important to note that the RVRS only maintains an index of divorces that occurred during those years. You cannot obtain a copy of a divorce certificate from the RVRS. Furthermore, online divorce records are not available from the RVRS.
Types of Massachusetts Divorce Records
When searching for divorce records in Massachusetts, it is beneficial to familiarize yourself with the different types of records available. Modern divorce records, which are maintained by Probate and Family Courts, include the following:
- A certified copy of a Judgement of Divorce Nisi, which is the initial judgement
- A Certificate of Divorce Absolute, which is the final divorce settlement document
- A separation agreement signed by both parties
- Letters of Authority or Appointment
- Court docket pages
- Attested and unattested copies of court file documents
Historical Massachusetts divorce documents may be categorized differently. When you search for divorce records in historical databases and archives, you may wish to ask what types of records you can expect to find before beginning your search.
How do I get my divorce papers in Massachusetts?
Many people wondering how to get a copy of divorce papers in Massachusetts do not realize that state courts do not automatically issue divorce certificates. Instead, you must request a divorce decree copy on your own after your case is finalized. You can get a copy of divorce decree papers for your own case by contacting the court that handled your divorce. Be sure to obtain a certified copy of divorce decree papers, as certified copies are usually the only documents accepted for official purposes.
Typically, your final Massachusetts divorce papers are available 90 to 120 days after the initial ruling. You can request your divorce documents in Massachusetts the day after your divorce is finalized. Be aware that if you need a divorce document for any financial reason, such as applying for a loan, then you may need additional documentation. For financial matters, you will want to obtain your divorce certificate copy as well as a notarized separation agreement that specifies your financial agreements.
When requesting divorce certificates in Massachusetts, you will need to know your docket number. To get a divorce record you must also fill out a Request for Copies of Court Records form and submit your application, along with a payment, to the courthouse. The fees for MA divorce certificates and other court papers vary based on what type of document and number of copies you require. You can expect to pay an initial fee along with a per-page fee for each page in your records.
How to Get Divorce Papers in Massachusetts for Research
When you need to search divorce certificates for informational purposes in Massachusetts, there are several methods you can try. The process for finding a divorce record in MA will depend on the year in which the divorce was granted. For any divorce from the year 1922 through the present, you may contact the Probate and Family Court that handled the case by following the application methods described above. Almost all divorce decree copies and other court papers are open to the public. If you only want to view archived information, rather than obtain a copy of a record, then you may also try searching in the RVRS. Note that the RVRS only maintains records from 1952 through the present. When you need a Massachusetts divorce decree copy from earlier than 1922, there are a variety of places to look. Divorce certificates from 1639 through 1922 are maintained in the following locations:
- The Suffolk Files
- The Massachusetts Archives Collection
- General Court files maintained by counties
- Council records
- Supreme Judicial Court archives
- Superior Court archives
Starting your divorce record search in the Massachusetts Archives Collection, maintained by the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, is helpful if you do not know where to begin.