How to Obtain Court Records in Alabama
There are a variety of records that individuals may need over the course of a lifetime or when doing business in a state. Those recorded in state courts go beyond traffic infractions and bankruptcy documents, to divorce decrees, adoption records, purchases and sales of land and buildings, and inheritances.
In general, these documents are public records and accessible by anyone who requests them. Some other records, including birth certificates and death certificates, may be withheld from the public in order to protect the privacy of individuals; laws vary from state to state.
Trial court records
In Alabama, trial court records may be searched on the Unified Court System website: https://pa.alacourt.com/default.aspx?loc=alacourt.gov for a minimum $10 fee. Records accessible through this site include small claims, civil, traffic, criminal, child support, and domestic relations (divorce). These include judge’s orders for payment, restitution, and finding of fault but will not include a transcript of the proceedings (such as testimony), which may be requested separately for an additional fee.
In addition, court records may not be sufficient for all purposes as a court order is the legal document from a judge ordering an individual to comply with a court decision, such as paying restitution. A sheriff’s deputy or other sworn court officer may be required to serve notice of a court order on the individual named in the paperwork.
Judges hear testimony and ensure that legal requirements are met, but court-issued paperwork is often required as proof that a decision has been made, including official divorce or adoption paperwork. In order to obtain an official copy of a divorce decree for a dissolution granted in Alabama, follow the instructions on the state Department of Public Health website here: http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/vitalrecords/divorce-certificates.html.
Some vital records for Alabama, including birth certificates and adoption documents, may also be requested online through VitalChek here: https://www.vitalchek.com/divorce-records/alabama/alabama-vital-records.
Land court: Probate records
When property is bought, sold, transferred, or inherited, all changes in ownership are recorded in land court by a probate judge. Alabama does not have a centralized system for searching probate records, so individuals must search by county (where the property is located or where the individual who owned the property resided). The results may reveal the information sought, such as the owner’s name or the location of the property or the search results may just narrow the search for additional information, such as the coordinates for the property indicated as maps are generally not online. Additional records may be requested through the land court or local county or town offices.
When an individual or business files for bankruptcy they must comply with rigorous standards of U.S. Bankruptcy court. The process is monitored in U.S. District Courts, including naming creditors, liquidating assets, and setting up a payment plan. To search bankruptcy records for Alabama, see this site: https://www.pacer.gov/psco/cgi-bin/links.pl.
U.S. District Courts are also the repository for most federal-level cases, including those involving interstate crimes such as kidnaping or transporting illegal drugs; multi-party class action lawsuits, and high-dollar civil cases.