Divorces are court actions that legally dissolve a marriage, and were handled by different legislative bodies and courts over time. Divorce records are often comprised of case files, providing the reason for the marriage’s dissolution, court actions and additional information, including children’s names. How and where you search for records will vary depending on the time period when the divorce occurred.
There is no statewide index to divorces before 1954, so you must know where the divorce occurred to find the record. If you do not know where it happened, search the U.S. Census to see where the couple was living just before or after the divorce. They may have been divorced in that county. The Ohio Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics maintains an index of divorces that occurred in Ohio from January 1, 1954 to the present.
The Archives & Library holds divorce records for some Ohio counties, but not all. Please note that the time period that our divorce record collections cover vary depending on the county. The best way to find out which court records or published indexes and transcriptions are available in the Archives & Library is to search our Online Collections Catalog by the county and court name or record type (for example: Knox County Clerk of Courts or Knox County Divorce).
For records not held in the Archives & Library, contact the local Clerk of Courts or county archives to find out where the records are housed.
Ohio Divorces: The Early Years by Carol Willsey Bell [R 929.3771 B413ohi 1994] provides a general introduction to divorce in Ohio and lists which courts have divorce records by county. It also contains transcripts and locations of divorce records, arranged alphabetically.
Divorces were granted by and recorded in the files of the Supreme Court for each county. This was a court of appeals that was held in each county, and is different from the Supreme Court of Ohio.
Some divorces were granted by the General Assembly of Ohio and are recorded in Acts of the State of Ohio, General and Local [Ohio Docs 245.12 Oh3 and microfilm roll FLM 249]. Divorces are also listed in the Local Laws section.
Divorces were recorded in the chancery records of the court of common pleas of the county where the divorce occurred.
Divorces were recorded at the court of common pleas of the county where the divorce occurred.
Probate courts in certain counties were given concurrent jurisdiction with the courts of common pleas in divorce. In 1911, the 1894 law granting this concurrent jurisdiction was repealed.
Divorces were recorded at the court of common pleas of the county where the divorce occurred. In 1914, domestic relations courts were established in most counties and handled divorce cases.
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The Archives & Library has a large collection of both hardcopy and microfilmed newspapers, and they are good sources for information about divorces. Laws required that public notice of the divorce be published in a paper of general circulation in the county. Look for "Bed and Board" notices. These were legal notices where one party claimed that the spouse had “left my bed and board”; that spouse would no longer be responsible for the debts of the other spouse. You can browse our newspaper collection by year, county, and city via our Online Collections Catalog.
If you can’t find a person's name in the index that doesn’t mean that his/her record will not be in the actual record book. If you have a general idea when the divorce occurred, you could review all of the records from that year or group of years.