While the concept of divorce goes back many years, UK divorce records were not officially recorded in a modern way until 1848. To get copies of divorce records in the UK, you will first have to request a search from the Central Index of Decrees Absolute (the CIDA). You will need to download a form from the Courts Service Website and submit it to the Principal Registry of the Family Division to start your search. You may also be able to find secular documents by doing a search of the British Library, but official court records dated to before1848 are not available.
In each divorce case, whether it was successful or not, there is a case file created. This file contains both the original petition and response and any relevant certificates such as marriage or birth certificates. The case file may also contain copies of decrees and even evidence.
While the majority of case files are likely to be lacking the majority of the less formal documents, there are still examples available of what are known as ‘full files’. An individual looking for divorce records in the UK should understand that very few of the actual case files managed to survive after 1937.
In modern proceedings, 20 years after a divorce has taken place the case files are destroyed. Within that 20-year time limit, someone can apply to the appropriate court to get permission to view the divorce file.
It will be quite obvious once someone starts a search for UK divorce records that records created prior to 20 or 30 years ago will be much harder to obtain. The divorce record system of organization and documentation allows a search to be done more easily if you are looking for a specific category of divorce petition.
Divorce records in the UK will use abbreviations that will show if the divorce petition was performed on the husband’s behalf or on the wife’s. There will also be abbreviations in the records that show if there was an actual divorce, a nullity, a judicial separation, or restitution of conjugal rights.
Before an individual goes through the effort necessary to find divorce records in the UK, they may first want to try an online search to see if there is any information available on the Internet. There are several online sites that can provide a person with quite a bit of information that can at least aid them in their search, if not answer their questions altogether.