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What are Colorado Family Court Records?
Colorado family court records are official documents containing information pertaining to the litigation processes of family courts. These records are primarily generated and managed by record custodians of various judicial districts and typically feature information regarding family-related case hearings including court actions and court orders as well as filed motions and final decrees. As per Colorado state laws, these records are made available to interested and eligible persons upon request. However, to obtain a record, the requesting party may be required to meet some eligibility requirements depending on the record of interest and unique to the record custodian.
What Cases are Heard by Colorado Family Courts?
Colorado family courts are legal arms of the state district courts which are trial courts of general jurisdiction with authority to hear cases pertaining to family law, domestic relations and minors. Some examples of cases heard by family courts in Colorado include:
- Cases relating to marriages, divorces, legal separation, annulment, and alimony
- Adoption, child custody, support, and visitation
- Paternity, termination of parental rights, minor emancipation, and guardianship
- Domestic abuse and negligence
- Juvenile delinquency, mental health
- Division of property, wills, and trusts.
The Colorado judicial system comprises six courts of varying authorities, which include the state supreme court, the court of appeals, district courts, county courts, municipal courts, and water courts. Colorado family courts are a division under the state district courts. Thus, family court records are generated and maintained by the court clerks of district courts across the state. When an appeal is made to a higher court, the record of that case is updated and maintained by the administrative division of the appellate court.
What is Included in Colorado Family Court Records?
Like most court records, Colorado family court records feature general court case information as well as details of the court proceedings. However, records are primarily unique to each case and may also be designed based on the operational processes of the judicial district where the case was filed. Generally, family court records contain the identifying information of the plaintiff and defendant as well as details of the complaint, dispute or suit, the place and date the original filing was made, any evidence filed, and trial transcripts including details of court proceedings such as court actions and motions.
In addition to the above, family court records indicate the court’s judgment regarding the case as well as conditions of any court-approved rights or privileges including adoption, child custody, guardianship, and visitation. Also featured are details of any agreed-upon financial entitlement or settlements including alimony and child support. Records of cases in which there are court-ascribed penalties also include details of the fines, probationary conditions, community service or jail sentences issued by the court in the course of the court proceedings, and where the case is appealed to a higher court, details of the courts most updated verdict is also indicated in the appellate court records.
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 Colorado?
Given the provisions of Colorado’s Open Records Act (CORA), most records generated by public offices are deemed public and can be accessed by interested members of the public. Similarly, family court records generated and managed by the administrative offices of various judicial arms can be disseminated to interested and eligible persons. However, the right of public access to Colorado court records is not absolute. As such records containing the below-stated information is restricted from public access:
- Records containing the personal and contact information of minors, juveniles and selected persons
- Court records pertaining to adoption and specific information regarding child custody, support and visitation as well as guardianship and minor emancipation
- The personal information of abuse victims
- Documents filed by child protective services and some medical professionals -- including mental and psychological evaluations
- All records feature financial information and property inventory of the parties
- Selected marriage license information
- Records of nolle pressed charges or cases
Persons seeking the aforementioned information may obtain them by requesting legal authorization in the form of a court order/subpoena. However, most requesters, including law enforcement agents or the subject of, or attorney to the subject(s) of the record of interest may have to prove the legal relevance of the record before obtaining a subpoena authorizing access to the record.
How Do I Get Family Court Records in Colorado?
The state of Colorado provides a variety of record retrieval options as required by U.S. statues. In most cases, family court records can be retrieved remotely using the state's online resources or independently operated alternatives. However, access to some court records requires the permissions of the record custodian and as such, in-person and mail-in requests must be made to the custodian. Summarily, interested members of the public may view and/or obtain copies of Colorado family court records by:
- Using state-managed public-access online resources
- Making in-person or mail-in queries to the record custodian
- Using third-party aggregation websites
How to Obtain Colorado Family Court Records Online
The state of Colorado provides limited options for retrieving family court records online. Access to trial court case records and copies of court documents are better found by contacting the court where the action was filed. Some judicial districts in the state operate location-specific online repositories which can be used to access the record of interest. In most cases, the requestor may be required to query the record custodian’s office in person or via mail to access their desired record. Notwithstanding, the Colorado judicial website features a court docket search tool useful for finding general court case information.
To find case information using the Colorado Judicial Court Docket Search, the user must furnish the tool with the information required to facilitate the search. This includes the name of the county where the action was filed, the case number of the record, the full name of either of the parties involved as well as the Attorney Bar number of the legal counsel of the aforementioned party.
For information unavailable on the Court Docket Search, interested persons may use the recommended vendors listed on the Colorado Judicial court services page. Alternatively, users may utilize third-party sites that allow users to obtain state court records using a real-time register of actions.
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 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 Colorado Family Records
Colorado family court records can be obtained by making in-person requests to the courthouse where the action was filed/heard. In-person record requests are especially recommended for obtaining full court case information including records deemed confidential and information sealed by a court order. While most records can be obtained electronically, there are generally restrictions placed on remotely-accessible online repositories.
Finding The Record Custodian
To request a record in person, the requesting party must first identify the court where the case was heard. Family court records are primarily generated and maintained by district and county courts in the state's various jurisdictions. However, where the case has been appealed to a higher court, the record will likely be managed by the administrative arm of the Colorado Court of Appeals or the state Supreme Court.
Preparing the Required Information
Upon confirming the location of the custodian of the desired record, requestors are advised to contact the office to obtain information regarding any retrieval processes/requirements unique to that jurisdiction. To obtain records from district/county courts or any of the state’s appellate courts, the requesting party will be required to provide details regarding the place and date the action was filed, as well as the case number of the record. Case numbers can also be retrieved by contacting the district or county where the case was heard.
In many cases, some jurisdictions/custodians will have unique requirements for accessing court records. These may vary depending on the current status of the case and the confidentiality of the information contained in the record. Where this is the case, requestors may also be required to present a court subpoena to prove their legal authority to access the record, as well as government-issued photo ID or approved identifying documents.
Making the Request
To retrieve a court record, the requestor may also be required to schedule an appointment with the record custodian. Most requests require that the requestor complete a request form and provide their personal information as well as details of the record of interest. If the required document is a public record, the requestor may be allowed to self-serve using the court’s public terminals otherwise, record searches will be conducted by court staff, and the requestor will be charged a nominal fee to cover the search and copy costs.
How to Access Colorado Family Court Records via Mail
Colorado family court records may be obtained by sending written requests via mail rather than in-person. After verifying the jurisdiction where the case was filed, details of the court location, as well as the mailing addresses and other contact information, can be found using the district contact information page or the county contact information page.
Upon confirming the aforementioned information, requestors are advised to confirm the requirements for mail-in requests by contacting the court administrator or clerk of the concerned court. Generally, mail-in requests must feature the following:
- The full name and phone number of the requesting party
- The requestors return address or preferred mailing address
- The type of record being requested
- The case file number of the record of interest
- The full names of the parties involved
- The place and date that the court action was originally filed
- Any additional documents including copies of the requestors photo ID
- Whether or not the record should be authenticated or certified.
In addition, requestors may be required to enclose a cheque or money order receipt for any associated costs as well as a self-addressed envelope. Record requests are generally processed within days of the query.
Specialized Family Court Records
Specialized family court records are often issued in Colorado family courts which provide legal validation for a variety of family-related matters including adoption, child custody, divorce, and civil protection. These decrees are useful for a variety of legal and financial functions and are available to eligible persons upon request. However, the eligibility requirements may vary depending on the record.
How to Obtain Colorado Adoption Records
Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute §19-5-305, adult adoptees, as well as other eligible persons, may obtain copies of the adoptee's original birth certificate. Adoption records are primarily managed by the organization or independent lawyer tasked with processing the adoption and these are generally not disseminated unless when relevant for legal purposes.
To request a record, interested and eligible persons may download and complete the state’s Application to Access an Original Birth Certificate Prior to Adoption. Upon completing and notarizing the application, the form must be enclosed along with any indicated requirements and fees and sent to:
4300 Cherry Creek Drive South,
Denver, CO 80246
How Do I Access Divorce Records in Colorado
Colorado divorce records are primarily managed by the office of the clerk of courts of the District Court where the divorce was issued. As such, persons seeking to obtain a divorce record in Colorado may do so by first locating the judicial district in which the decree was issued. This can be done using the Colorado Judicial Branch Find Your District & County tool.
Upon confirming the location of the courthouse, interested persons may query the clerk of courts in person or via mail. Generally, the requesting party will be required to provide the information required for facilitating record searches including the names of the parties involved, the place and date of the decree and the case file or docket number of the record of interest. In addition to the aforementioned requirements, requestors may be charged a standard search/copy fee in order to retrieve the record.