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What are Alabama Family Court Records?
Alabama family court records refer to all records pertaining to the litigation processes of family courts within the jurisdiction of the state. This consists of documents containing detailed information regarding family cases as well as documented accounts of court actions, motions, opinions and decisions as well as court appearances evidence filed in the course of a hearing. As per Alabama public record laws, family court records are maintained and disseminated by designated record custodians to interested and eligible members of the public. However, the eligibility requirements for accessing these records generally vary depending on the record of interest and the judicial district in which the case was heard.
What Cases are Heard by Alabama Family Courts?
Family courts in Alabama are divisions of the state’s civil courts and are primarily concerned with hearing family-related matters. They are courts of limited jurisdiction operating as arms of the Court of Civil Appeals which serves as Alabama’s civil appellate court and hears civil matters in which the financial claim does not exceed $50,000 as well as domestic cases such as:
- Marriages, divorces, separation, and annulment
- Juvenile delinquency, domestic abuse and protection orders
- Child adoption and custody
- Alimony, spousal support, and child support cases
- Guardianship, minor emancipation, and related interventions
- Cases relating to wills, trusts and domestic financial rights and settlements
Alabama’s judicial system consists of the State Supreme Court, the Court of Civil Appeals, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals as well as Alabama Circuit Courts which are authorities over the state’s district, municipal and probate courts. While Alabama’s circuit courts are the state courts of general jurisdiction, the court of civil appeals attends to all civil matters. Where the verdict of the circuit is challenged, the case may proceed to the state Supreme Court which serves as the state’s highest appellate court and the court of last resort.
What is Included in Alabama Family Court Records?
Like most court records, Alabama family court records are specially generated to contain information pertaining to a court case, the litigation proceedings as well as the verdict/judgment of the court regarding a case. Essentially, court records provide an objective account of the case and the court's legal processes. As such, family court records generally contain the personal information of the plaintiff/defendant and general court case information including the place and date the case was filed along with court actions and motions, motion arguments, court appearances and filed pieces of evidence along with any related documents.
Family court records also detail the court’s final verdict regarding the case indicating penalties and fines where applicable and financial settlements and entitlements such as spousal support/alimony child support. Where court-issued rights are granted such as adoption, child custody or visitation, protective orders and separation, the conditions for these rights are often indicated.
Are Family Court Records Public in Alabama?
Pursuant to Alabama’s public record laws, family court records are maintained and disseminated by the court clerks of the civil court of appeals in various judicial districts. The court clerks are tasked with providing access to these court records with some restrictions. The following records are confidential and are generally not available to requestors unless authorized by a court:
- Records containing the personal and contact information of a minor or juvenile
- All personal information records of a domestic violence/assault victim
- Records filed by adoption agencies, child protective services during the course of the proceedings
- Records pertaining to parental rights including guardianship records
- Records detailing the financial status or property inventory of selected persons
- Income tax returns
- Records pertaining to psychological and mental health evaluations
- Selected marriage license information
To be eligible to access confidential court records, the requesting party must be authorized by a subpoena or court order.
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 Do I Get Family Court Records in Alabama?
Following the provisions of Alabama’s public record laws, interested members of the public may view/copy family court records managed by the Alabama state judiciary upon request. Records can be obtained using the state-operated online resources or by querying the office of the clerk of courts in the courthouse where the case was filed or heard. Generally, record retrieval processes are often unique to the judicial district in which the record is maintained as well as the information contained therein. However, there are three popular channels with which Alabama family court records can be retrieved. They include:
- Online resources (managed by the state or independent aggregate parties)
- Written requests to the office of the clerk of courts
- Making in-person queries to the record custodian
How to Obtain Alabama Family Court Records Online
The state of Alabama provides a variety of online resources with which members of the public can view or obtain copies of court records including family court record information. Given the unrestricted access most online resources offer, all confidential/sealed records may not be obtained using any of these sources. However, records deemed public by law or court order may be obtained using the online databases managed by different judicial districts and the options provided by the state which includes the ACIS Online, AlaCourt and AlaFile. These resources serve as statewide repositories for the state of Alabama, and access to these databases generally depends on the authority of the requesting party.
Public Access Resources
The primary public index of the Alabama state judiciary is the AlaCourt which houses statewide court information including family case hearings and details of court motions, appearances, court actions, motion arguments and filed evidence relevant to family court cases.
Members of the public can be offered access to this database on a subscription basis. All subscribed users are issued unique login information with which to access the database. To subscribe, intending users must call the AlaCourt helpline at 1-877-799-9898 for information regarding the registration and subscription processes of the state.
While the AlaCourt offers a convenient option for frequent users, one time users can access desired family court records using the Just One Look AlaCourt tool. With the JOL, infrequent users may access family court case information on a case-by-case basis without a subscription. This is done by conducting online searches using the case number of the required record or the name of the parties involved. The information available on the index includes personal information of the plaintiff/defendant as well as case summaries. However, users will be charged a nominal fee of $9.99 per name or case number search or $5 per image search.
Restricted Online Indexes
Both the AlaFile and the ACIS Online are exclusive to selected persons. While the ACIS online is the state’s Appellate Courts’ Online Information Service available to Alabama licensed litigants, the AlaFile may be accessed by state-licensed attorneys as well as Pro Se individuals/businesses and authorized account managers. While the latter allows users to file and access copies of electronically filed civil court records, the former provides access to case files and related tracking functions. In any case, all users (of either tool) are required to pre-register by providing details such as state bar identification number and details of their employer or private practice on the online application form. In registering to use the ACIS Online, Pro Hac Vice attorneys can contact the Clerk of the Appellate Court for a code that can be used as an alternative to the state bar number. Similarly, interested and eligible persons may access the AlaFile by registering online and providing the requested information. Where necessary, the prospective user may be required to provide a company-issued letter as proof of their authorization
In addition to the above, publicly available records are also 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 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.
How to Make in-person Requests for Alabama Family Records
For persons interested in obtaining full court case information, in-person record requests are the recommended record retrieval option. Records that are confidential or sealed can only be accessed by making in-person requests to the office of the clerk of courts in the court where the case was filed/heard. To request a record, interested persons are required to:
Locate the Record Custodian
As provided by Alabama state laws, all court records are maintained by the court clerk of various courts. As such, most family court records are primarily generated and disseminated by the court clerk of the state’s court of Civil Appeal.
To obtain the desired record, the requesting party must locate the record custodian. However, the location of a family court record may also be impacted by the most current status of the case. Thus, where the initial verdict of a family court case has been appealed, the record may also be maintained by the administrative arm of the Supreme court which serves as the highest appellate court of last resort. Court addresses and detailed contact information may be verified using the Alabama Judicial Circuits Map.
Prepare the Requirements
Prior to requesting a record, requestors are advised to inquire about the record retrieval process in the judicial district where the case was filed/heard.
Generally, any information required to facilitate the record search must be provided by the requestor. This includes the personal information of the plaintiff/defendant as well as the case, number, docket number or appellate file number of the record. Additionally, the names of the litigants and details of the filing may also be requested. Where the record is confidential, the requestor will be required to obtain the required legal authorization for accessing the record of interest.
Requesting the Record
While record requests may be made during general office hours, requestors are advised to schedule their visit to the courthouse beforehand. In addition to general case information the requesting party may also be required to present a government-issued photo ID or other forms of identification in order to confirm the eligibility of the requestor. Most record custodians also charge a standard search/copy fee depending on the record requested and the copies required.
How to Access Alabama Family Court Records via Mail
Family court records may also be requested by sending a written query to the record custodian via mail. All written requests must contain:
- The full name of the parties involved
- General court case information
- The case file number, docket number or appellate file number of the record
- Details of the suit including the place and date it was filed
- The legal representatives of either party.
- The name and contact information of the requesting party
Generally the written record request must be accompanied by a cheque or money order payment of any applicable fees as well as a copy of the requestors government-issued photo ID and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Additional information regarding any unique requirements of the judicial districts may be obtained by contacting the office of the clerk of courts before making the request.
Specialized Family Court Records
Alabama Family courts maintain a variety of court decrees and documents in addition to maintaining records of trial transcripts. These documents provide legal proof of a variety of court-issued rights and decrees including annulment, separation, and divorce, alimony and child support, adoption and child custody as well as authorization for will and trust fund execution. Like court records, some of these documents may be made available to interested and eligible persons.
How to Obtain Alabama Adoption Records
The state of Alabama allows limited access to non-identifying information of adoptees to eligible persons. Typically, the original birth certificate along with evidence of adoption of adoptees are sealed after an adoption takes place and legitimation/paternity is established. However, as provided by the Alabama vital records law amended in 2000, adoptees may access original birth information and birth parents may also place their information in the sealed record in order to be contacted for relevant medical history information.
Interested and persons may obtain an original Alabama adoptee birth record by downloading and completing the Application Form. Requestors must also provide the ID requirements and enclose, along with their request, a fee of $25 which should be delivered to the Alabama Vital Records office at:
Alabama Vital Records - Adoptee Section
P.O. Box 5625
Montgomery, AL 36103-5625
Phone: (334) 206-5426.
How Do I Access Divorce Records in Alabama
The Alabama Vital Records Office serves as a repository for records of vital events that occurred within state limits -- including divorce. By Alabama state law, divorce records are unrestricted and can be obtained by interested members of the public upon the provision of certain requirements.
Divorce record requests can be made in person or via mail to the Alabama vital records office. While mail-in applications can be made using the Divorce Record Application Form, in-person requests require that the requestor provide the following information:
- The full (maiden) names of both spouses
- The date and place of the divorce
- The name, contact phone number, and signature of the requestor
- The return address of the requesting party.
Requestors are generally charged $15 per record requested and an additional $6 if copies are also required. Both mail and in-person requests may be made to:
Alabama Vital Records
P.O. Box 5625
Montgomery, Alabama 36103-5625
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.