How to Obtain Court Records in Florida
In Florida, requesting court records begins with understanding and identifying which court had jurisdiction over the case you are seeking.
County courts handle misdemeanor criminal cases like shoplifting and driving without a license, traffic infractions, landlord/tenant disputes, as well as civil complaints (small claims) that represent less than $15,000 in damages. There is one county court in each of Florida’s 67 counties. Above the county courts are 20 circuit courts which have jurisdiction over trials, including felony criminal charges, civil cases (lawsuits) above $15,000 in damages or value, probate, family and juvenile proceedings, and appeals of lower court decisions.
At the top of the Florida judiciary are five district courts of appeal which have jurisdiction over disputes of lower court decisions and automatic appeals of death row cases. Above the district courts of appeal is the state supreme court which reviews lower court cases and determines the constitutionality of state laws.
Florida’s lower courts do not have a single searchable website of state court information. Court records are found in the court where the case was handled. Using the description of courts above, you may narrow your search by court location and look up the county court where the case was heard. The clerk of the court handles records and is responsible for fulfilling requests for records or can help you find the appropriate court. Some records, including juvenile cases and others involving victims of crime, may be kept confidential or redacted to remove sensitive information, including medical history or the identity of sex crime victims. This site http://www.flclerks.com/ allows you to search for court clerks by county (see lower half of page on right) and this site http://www.flcourts.org/florida-courts/trial-courts-circuit.stml offers links to the circuit courts.
In Florida, probate courts are part of the circuit courts and handle more than wills, trusts, and estates. They also take care of guardianship, competency, and mental health cases. Most probate records are available to the public unless they contain confidential information about an individual, such as medical records. To research a will or inheritance, including the heirs to property, contact the clerk of the circuit court responsible for the county where the person lived. This page gives some general information about accessing probate records and which records are restricted: http://www.flclerks.com/?page=hdi_probate_records&terms=%22probate+and+records%22.
State courts do not handle bankruptcy cases, U.S. District courts (federal) do. There are two federal district courts for Florida. To research bankruptcies, use the federal court search engine on this page: https://pcl.uscourts.gov/pcl/index.jsf.
The Florida Department of Health provides divorce certificates following a written request (by mail). This document may be necessary to apply for financial aid, housing assistance, or a subsequent marriage license. The state of Florida only has records of divorces that were granted in Florida (generally to Floriday residents only). Follow instructions on this page to request such a record: http://www.floridahealth.gov/certificates/certificates/divorce/