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What are Connecticut Family Court Records?
Connecticut family court records are legal documents detailing the litigation processes of family courts within the jurisdiction of the state. These records typically provide accounts of family-related case hearings and are primarily generated and disseminated by the record custodians of various judicial districts. The information contained in these records includes details of court actions, orders, and court motions as well as final verdicts and court-issued decrees. Pursuant to Connecticut state public access laws, most court records may be made available to interested and eligible persons upon request. However, in order to obtain a record, the requesting party may be required to meet some eligibility requirements depending on the confidentiality of the record of interest and the record custodian.
What Cases are Heard by Connecticut Family Courts?
Connecticut's family courts function as divisions under Connecticut's superior courts and probate courts. While the probate courts attend to some aspects of family law, Connecticut's superior courts are the state’s trial court of general jurisdiction and operate the family division where most family court cases proceed. Generally, the cases heard by family courts include:
- Marriage, divorce, annulment, and other forms of legal separation of family units
- Adoption, child custody, guardianship, paternity, and termination of parental rights
- Child and spousal support
- Domestic abuse and negligence
- Juvenile delinquency
- Division of property, will fulfillment and disputes pertaining to trust.
The judicial system of Connecticut comprises four courts of varying authorities. These include the supreme court, appellate court, superior court, and probate courts. Given that Connecticut’s superior courts are the state’s trial court of general jurisdiction, most family-related cases begin in the superior court. However, selected cases may proceed in the state’s district courts. As such, family court records are generated and maintained by the court clerks of district courts and superior courts across the state. However, where the case is appealed at the appellate or supreme court, then the record of that case is updated and maintained by the administrative division of the appellate court.
What is Included in Connecticut Family Court Records?
Connecticut family court records are developed to provide details of court proceedings of civil suits tried in the state’s family courts. However, most records are unique to each case and their contents also vary depending on the record custodian. Generally, most family court records contain information regarding the suit, dispute or complaint, the personal information of the parties involved, and other relevant details of court proceedings such as court motions and orders, evidence filed, and trial transcripts.
Most records also include details of the court’s final verdict or decree including any conditions for court-approved privileges such as adoption, child custody, and visitation. In many cases, details of financial settlements, agreements, or entitlements are also included. Examples of these include details of spousal support or alimony, child support, and various forms of financial compensation. Where either of the parties is held in contempt during the court proceeding, the records might also include any court-ascribed penalties including jail terms, community service sentences, and fines.
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.
Are Family Court Records Public in Connecticut?
According to the provisions of Connecticut public records access laws, members of the public may access public family court records upon request. However, the right of public access is not absolute as some restrictions are placed on records deemed confidential or those sealed by court order. Essentially, while general case information is open (unless closed by the judge), access to the following information is often restricted:
- The personal information of minors
- Identities of sexual assault victims, and victims of other forms of assault
- Most information pertaining to adoption, child custody/support, paternity, guardianship and minor emancipation cases.
- All forms financial information and estate evaluations made in divorce or spousal support cases
- Records filed by child protective services
- Details of mental health and psychological evaluations made on the plaintiff/defendant
- Records of cases or charges which have been dismissed
In order to access confidential information, the requesting party will be required to obtain authorization via court order or subpoena. Following these restrictions, record repositories that are publicly accessible do not contain confidential information. As such, requests for confidential information may only be made in person at the office of the court clerk of the courthouse where the case was filed/heard.
How Do I Get Family Court Records in Connecticut?
Most records are accessible using state-operated or privately owned online repositories providing access to public records. However, access to confidential and/or certified copies of court records often require that the requestor makes an in-person or mail-in request to the record custodian. Members of the public may view and/or obtain copies of Connecticut family court records by:
- Using state-managed public-access online resources
- Making in-person queries to the record custodian
- Sending mail-in requests to the courthouse where the case was filed/heard
How to Obtain Connecticut Family Court Records Online
The state of Connecticut provides a variety of online resources with which interested persons may view/obtain court records. While most judicial districts of the state provide public access to their individual resources, the state maintains two primary central repositories for family court records. These include the Appellate/Supreme Case Look-up and the Superior Court Case Look-up (SCCL) tool.
While the SCCL grants access to the records of cases heard in the state’s civil and family courts, the ACL serves as an online repository for records of court cases that have been heard by the state appellate courts.
To obtain family court records using either of these resources, interested persons must use the search tools provided. On the SCCL portal, family court record searches may be conducted by the names of the parties involved, the docket number of the record, or the attorney number of either of the legal counsels.
Accessing the Supreme and Appellate Court Case Look-up involves searching for family court records by case name, appellate docket number, trial court docket number, or by the name of parties involved. Upon retrieving the desired record, users may proceed to verify the information available on the website against official, authenticated court records. However, given the restrictions placed on retrieving court records online, the records available through remotely accessible sources are limited.
Additionally, 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.
How to Make In-Person Requests for Connecticut Family Records
Where the requestor requires confidential, sealed, or full court case information, a request may be made in person to the office of the clerk of courts where the action was filed. To obtain Connecticut family court records in person, the requesting party must proceed thus:
Locate The Record Custodian
The Connecticut Supreme, Appellate and Superior courts maintain local repositories of court records of family court cases filed within their jurisdiction. However, to make in-person requests to the record custodian, interested persons must locate the courthouses where the actions were filed or the case heard. Generally, the location of a family court record depends on the most current status of the case. Recently filed cases are usually managed by Superior courts in various jurisdictions. However, where an appeal has been made, the record will likely be housed by the administrative unit of the appellate court where the appeal was filed/heard.
Make the Request
Once the location of a court record has been established, the requesting party should contact the office of the custodian for information regarding the court’s record retrieval requirements. In addition to these requirements, most requesters will be required to schedule a visit to the courthouse beforehand. It is likely that the requestor will also be required to prepare a written request indicating the required record as well as any relevant information. However, some custodians provide the requestor with a record request form which should be completed and notarized before the request is made.
Provide any Additional Information Required
In the state of Connecticut, requestors are required to provide all the information required to facilitate a record search. This typically includes the full names of the parties involved, the case file number of the record and details of the case filing. In addition to the above, requestors may also be required to present government-issued IDs as well as pay nominal search/copy fees before accessing the desired records. However, in-person record requests are typically processed on a same-day basis.
Requesting for Connecticut Family Court Records by Mail
Connecticut family court records can also be obtained by submitting mail-in requests to court clerks. To obtain these records via mail, requestors must submit written requests containing the information needed to find those records. These include the full names of the parties involved as well as where and when the case was filed and/or concluded.
In many cases, Connecticut court record custodians provide record request forms. Requestors must complete these in place written requests and include their government-issued photo IDs, self-addressed stamped envelopes, and payments in form of checks or money orders. Prior to making a request, it is best to contact the courthouse for information regarding the procedure and fees required.
How Do I Access Divorce Court Records in Connecticut?
All divorce records, including final decrees as well as records of dissolution of civil unions, are maintained by the clerks of court in the Superior courts where the divorces were filed. Find the address and contact information of the court clerk’s office using the Directory of Connecticut Superior Courts. Connecticut Superior court clerks accept requests for divorce records in person or via mail. In many cases, the requesting party is required to provide information regarding the divorce including the date and place the suit was filed, the names of the parties involved, and the case file or docket number of the record. Requestors will also be charged nominal fees to cover search/copy costs.