Divorce records: family history research

Download the PDF version of Divorce: family history info guide [PDF 85 kb]

Records associated with the breakdown of marriage are often those which can most fully 'flesh out' a family history and provide a human prespective to otherwise rather bare facts. Divorce files may contain marriage certificates, correspondence and a great deal of information about the family.

What divorce records are available?

Early Australian divorce files are usually found in the Supreme Court records or archival repository of the relevant State.

Access to divorce files may be restricted. Anyone wishing to access files within the restricted period will need to apply to the Registrar of the relevant Supreme Court for permission.

After 1976 the Family Court of Australia is generally responsible for divorce records, although the date of commencement of the Family Court's responsibility varies from State to State. To obtain proof of their own divorces, individuals should apply to the Family Court of Australia.

To search for a record of divorce individuals can go to the ‘Commonwealth Courts Portal’, which provides web-based services for clients to access information about cases before the courts. Individuals need to register to access the portal.

How can I find out about divorce records?

SLQ holds some published indexes and there are a number of online indexes that can assist in tracing divorce records.

Queensland

Index to Divorces, 1861-1894 [Index categories > Courts > Divorces 1861-1894]
The index covers 1861-1894 for the Southern District.

Registers of matrimonial writs and divorce files for the Southern District (1861-1976) and for the Northern District (1870-1950 and 1961-1976) are held at Queensland State Archives.

Divorce files for cases heard in the Supreme Court, Central District (Rockhampton) are held in Rockhampton. Inquiries should be addressed to The Registrar, Supreme Court Rockhampton, GPO Box 300, Rockhampton, Qld 4700.

Prior to 1975 marriage certificates at the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages were annotated with the details of divorces.

Death, obituary and divorce extracts from Bundaberg & Mount Perry & General advertiser, 1885-1886, 1887-1888 / compiled by Bundaberg Genealogical Association (Q 929.3 DEA)

Check One Search online catalogue for additional titles.

New South Wales

Index to Divorce Case Papers, 1873-1930
The index currently covers the years 1876-1923. More records are being added progressively. A microfiche index for the years 1873-1974 is available in the reading rooms of State Records NSW.

Divorce case papers for 1873 to July 1963 and 1970 are held at the Western Sydney Records Centre.

For divorce case papers from July 1963 to 1976 (except 1970) contact the Family Law Clerk, Supreme Court of NSW, GPO Box 3, Sydney NSW 2001.

For divorce files after 1976 contact the Family Law Courts of Australia, National Enquiry Centre, GPO Box 9991, PARRAMATTA NSW 2124

For more information consult the State Records NSW Divorce records guide

South Australia

Matrimonial petitions for divorce, 1859-1893 [microfiche] (MFC 346.94230166 1993)

Ancestors in Archives: a guide to family history sources in the official records of South Australia / State Records, Reference Services Branch (PAM 016.9293 1991)

This guide includes information on divorce records held in the State Records of South Australia.

Tasmania

Index to Tasmanian Divorces, 1861-1920
Arranged alphabetically by the petitioner's name. Details provided include the year, case number, respondent's surname and given name, name of co-respondent and reference number.

Victoria

Divorce index, Victoria, 1861-1900 [microfiche] / Wendy Baker & Sue McBeth (MFC 929.3945 1990)

Public Records Office Victoria holds divorce records created between 1861 and 1940. The guide, Divorce files and cause records, contains some basic information as well as an index that can be searched by surname then by record number.

For Victorian divorce files dated after 1940 contact the Supreme Court of Victoria and after 1976 the Family Law Courts of Australia.

Western Australia

The State Record Office of Western Australia holds divorce records created by the Supreme Court of Western Australia for the period 1864-1977. There is an alphabetical index to these records in their Search Room.

A 75 year restriction on access to divorce files applies. For further details, see the information sheet Divorce Records.

New Zealand

The first New Zealand law permitting divorce was passed in 1867.

Whenever a divorce is granted, the original marriage certificate is stamped with the date and court location of the decree absolute. To find out if or when and where a divorce took place, you will need a copy of the marriage certificate from the Central Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Wellington.

For application forms, fees and contact details follow the link under Births, Deaths and Marriages on the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs website.

Archives New Zealand holds divorce registers and files transferred from the Supreme/High Courts. A 60 year access restriction applies. For further information see the Personal Identity Reference Guide.

Britain

The National Archives holds records of Supreme Court divorce cases. For the period 1858-1937, it is possible to locate divorce records searching in their catalogue using the series reference number J77 and the surname. For the time period, 1858-1915, National Archives divorce case files for England and Wales can be searched via “UK, Civil Divorce Records 1858-1915” database on Ancestry, available onsite only, at the State Library. The digitised images are available.

Information on divorce records held before and after 1858 may be found in the NA research guides Divorces and Divorces: further research.

Times Digital Archive 1785-2009
Search for the names of petitioners and/or defendants in the digital edition of The Times (London) to locate reports on divorce cases. It is available onsite at the State Library and by remote access through the website using your library card or username and password.

Download the PDF version of Divorce: family history info guide [PDF 85 kb]

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