How to look for records of... Divorces

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free



1. What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • the names of the petitioner and respondent
  • the approximate date of the divorce

2. What records can I see online?

Divorce case files (1858-1911)

Search and download divorce case files for England and Wales (J 77/1/A1 – J 77/1063/2238) at Ancestry.co.uk (£).

See below for guidance on how to find case files from 1912 to 1937.

3. What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

Divorce case files (1858-1937)

Search Discovery, our catalogue, by name of petitioner, respondent or corespondent for divorce suits in England and Wales, both successful and unsuccessful, in J 77.

Narrow your search by using double quotation marks to find a person’s full name, such as “John Williams”.

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

4. What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Decrees absolute (1858 to present)

Consult the GOV.UK website for details of how to request a copy of a decree absolute, legal proof of a divorce in England or Wales. If you don’t know which court ratified the divorce you can ask the Central Family Court to carry out a search (£) by filling in a D440 form.

Scottish divorce records (1563 to present)

Contact the National Records of Scotland for Scottish divorce records.

Northern Irish divorce records

Contact the court where the divorce was granted: either the Royal Courts of Justice (Belfast) or a county court. For the contact details, see the Northern Ireland Court Service website.

5. What other resources will help me find information?

Websites

Search The Times Archive (£) to view articles about some of the more newsworthy divorce cases from 1785-1985.

Browse a list of private Acts of Parliament to check for divorces before 1858.

Books

Some or all of the recommended publications below may be available to buy from The National Archives’ Bookshop. Alternatively, search The National Archives’ Library to see what is available to consult at Kew.

Read Road to Divorce: England 1530-1987 by Lawrence Stone (Oxford University Press, 1990).

6. Did you know?

The survival rate of divorce case files is:

  • 1858-1927: almost 100%
  • 1928-1937: 80%
  • After 1937 : less than 0.2%

Before 1858, a full divorce required a private act of Parliament so the opportunity was only available to a few people.

Divorce case files can contain petitions, certificates, and copies of the decrees nisi and absolute.

decrees absolute give the names of the petitioner, respondent and (if applicable) corespondent and the date and place of the marriage.

The Supreme Court and some county courts grant divorces in England and Wales.

Until 1971 divorce by mutual consent was not allowed.