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What are Ohio Family Court Records?
Ohio family court records are official documents pertaining to legal processes, judgments, and resolutions reached in family courts within the state’s jurisdiction. These documents encompass records of filings, hearings/trials as well as court dockets, orders, and decrees relating to family-related cases. They may be made available to eligible persons upon request and may serve as legal authority for various actions and processes. As per Ohio state laws, these records are primarily managed and disseminated by the courthouse where the case was originally filed. The eligibility requirements for accessing these records may vary depending on the courthouse and the case type.
What Cases are Heard by Ohio Family Courts?
The Judicial system of the state of Ohio comprises three judiciary levels which are primarily distinguished by jurisdiction and authority.
The state’s highest-ranking court is it’s Supreme court which serves as Ohio’s highest appellate court and the court of last resort. While the district courts of appeals serve as the intermediate-level courts of Ohio, the state’s courts of common pleas are the lowest level courts of the state which serve as the trial courts in Ohio’s court system.
Ohio common pleas courts may be considered the state’s family courts as they operate domestic, juvenile and probate divisions. Common pleas courts have jurisdiction to hear family-related cases such as may involve divorce, dissolution, separation and annulment, spousal and child support, child custody, and parental rights as well as cases involving paternity, child abuse and/or neglect and truancy. The probate division of the court also oversees the administration of wills, estates, and guardianship arrangements. Additionally, the division is tasked with the issuance of related documents including adoption records and marriage licenses.
What is Included in Ohio Family Court Records?
While the information contained in court records is generally unique to the case and the respondent(s) and/or plaintiff, most family court records are structured to perform similar functions. As such, Ohio family court records often detail the personal information of the parties involved as well as details of the case, testimonies, evidence filed, transcripts of court proceedings and any motion, judgments, and probationary clauses, and agreed upon financial entitlements/settlements (if applicable).
Are Family Court Records Public in Ohio?
Given the protective history of children’s courts, some family court records in the state of Ohio are legally required to be confidential. Following the statutory provisions requiring the privacy of sensitive data, the following information may not be accessed without the required legal, authority:
- The personal information of an abuse victim and minor/juvenile
- Financial account numbers, state identification numbers and social security numbers of parties involved in the case.
- Child services records as well as custody and adoption details
- The educational, medical/psychological records of a minor
- Property inventory of divorced/divorcing persons.
In order to obtain confidential family court record information, interested persons may subpoena the record or make in-person requests to the appropriate custodian of the record of interest (provided they have a court order authorizing this request). However, all non-confidential information may be accessed remotely using any of the online channels provided or by making mail or in-person queries to the appropriate quarters.
How Do I Get Family Court Records in Ohio?
Ohio family court records are primarily managed by the clerk of courts of the Common Pleas courts in various jurisdictions of the state. In addition to this, the state provides a variety of channels through which family court records are managed and disseminated. Whichever the method of retrieval however, the requesting party may be required to meet similar eligibility requirements.
Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.
How to Obtain Family Court Records Online
In order to obtain a family court record online, the interested party must locate the record custodian which is also the court where the case was filed/heard or judgment delivered. Family court records are primarily managed by the Domestic Relations, Juvenile or Probate division of the various Court of Common Pleas in Ohio’s 88 counties. As per state law, most courts provide online resources with which county residents can perform remote searches for public family court records. However, records available online often exclude information deemed confidential or sensitive. These may only be obtained by making in-person court-approved requests to the court administrator.
Online searches generally require that the requestor provide information regarding the record such as the name of either party involved in the case, as well as the case file number, docket number the place and date of filing and the name of the plaintiff’s or defendant’s attorney. In most jurisdictions, this service may be accessed for free, but when required a nominal fee will be charged for copies or advanced searches.
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
Requirements for Obtaining Family Court Records In Person
To request Ohio family court records in person, the requesting party is required to locate the court where the suit was filed and/or heard, and prepare the needed requirements for accessing the record of interest. For transcripts of court proceedings or court actions, requestors may be required to present a government-issued ID and a court order (if confidential information is included on the records). However, motions and other public records may be accessed by interested persons without the aforementioned requirements. In most cases, the information required to facilitate record searches must be provided by the requestor. This includes the full names of the parties involved, details of the case type, place, and date of filing as well as the docket number and other related information.
Requirements for Accessing Family Court Records Via Mail
Ohio family court records may also be obtained by sending a written request to the appropriate record custodian via U.S. mail. Written requests must state relevant details of the record of interest including the type of record required the case type, the full names of the persons involved and the case file and/or docket number of the record (if applicable). The requesting party may also be required to enclose a copy of their government-issued photo ID as well as payment for any required copy/search fees and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. In many cases, the requestor will be provided with a downloadable application form which will indicate any additional requirements.
Specialized Family Court Records
The domestic, probate and juvenile divisions of Ohio common pleas courts are tasked with maintaining a variety of court-issued decrees and documents. These records, paired with trial transcripts and motions are especially useful for validating legal actions or redeeming financial/legally-ascribed entitlements -- they include records/decrees of divorce, adoption, child custody, orders of protection and other related documents.
How Do I Access Child Custody Court Records in Ohio?
While some child custody records are generally considered public records, specific aspects of these records are redacted. Redacted information may include details of guardian ad litem, financial and health care records as well as identifying information of minors and details of custody evaluators or domestic violence reports where applicable. Thus, persons seeking access to these records may be required to meet some eligibility requirements of these records to access the full information on a child custody record.
To access child custody records in Ohio, the requestor is required to contact the domestic relations division of the common pleas court of the jurisdiction/county. The requesting party will be required to provide information regarding the case and pay any applicable fees to gain record access. For especially sensitive information, requests must be validated by a court order/subpoena.
How to Access Ohio Civil Protection Orders
Civil protection orders or orders of protection are issued in domestic violence cases which are generally managed by the domestic relations division of Ohio’s common pleas courts. Copies of these orders can be obtained by querying the courthouse where the restraining order was originally filed, or the police station which processed and served the order to the defendant.
Civil protection orders are a public record and will be made available to members of the public upon request. However, the requestor may be required to provide information regarding the case in order to facilitate its retrieval. The information required may include the full names of the parties involved, the place and date the restraining order was filed and the date the order was served and/or the issuing law enforcement agency.
How to Access Ohio Adoption Records
Ohio adoption records are maintained and disseminated by the Ohio Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics which is tasked with managing records of persons born in the state and adopted nationwide. Given the sensitive information contained in these records, adoption documents are deemed confidential and are only available to persons who meet specific eligibility requirements in the state.
To obtain Ohio adoption records, interested and eligible persons may download and complete the ODH application for adoption file form. On the application, the requestor is required to indicate their relationship with the adoptee as well as the name of the adoptee and details of their birth and adoption. Completed forms must be notarized and delivered along with the indicated items of identification and a fee of $20 to:
Ohio Department of Health
Attn: Special Registration
P.O. Box 15098
Columbus, Ohio 43215-0098
How Do I Access Divorce Court Records in Ohio?
While the state of Ohio does not operate a central database from which divorce records can be accessed, these records are easily accessible from various record custodians. To obtain a divorce court record or decree, interested persons may query the office of the clerk of the common pleas court where the case was heard and the divorce was granted. The requesting party will be required to provide information with which to track the record -- i.e. the full names of the divorced parties, the place and date the case was filed, the case file number of the record and the date of the dissolution. Requestors are generally charged a nominal search/copy fee, but records may be viewed for free if the requestor self-serves using the court's public terminals. Additional fees may be charged for authentication, notarization and for mailing the record (if required.)