How to Obtain Court Records in Georgia
There are many reasons why you may need a copy of court records if you were involved in a case tried in Georgia courts, including to qualify for public assistance, to prove your innocence, to show that you completed the terms of your probation or parole, or to seek an appeal of a verdict.
Finding the necessary Georgia court records requires understanding and locating the court where the decision was made. Georgia’s judiciary consists of several lower courts that handle minor civil and criminal issues, probate, and juvenile matters. These lower courts are arranged by county and include municipal courts, magistrate courts, juvenile, and probate courts. There are 159 magistrate courts and 370 municipal courts that have somewhat overlapping jurisdiction of traffic issues, small claims (lawsuits under $15,000), minor criminal offenses, search warrants, etc.
Above municipal and magistrate courts are Georgia’s state courts, which are located in each county and have jurisdiction over misdemeanors. Superior courts are at the next level, and they handle property issues, divorces, and trials, including felonies.
Georgia’s appellate courts hear disputes over lower court decisions, specifically errors of law. The state Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of court decisions and state laws.
Obtaining Georgia court records
Criminal and civil records are maintained for a specific number of years according to the offense: six years for traffic infractions and 20 years for misdemeanor violations. Records for serious crimes are likely to be maintained forever. Records should be requested in writing. The local court’s website will likely allow you to download a request form or provide a telephone number to call the clerk’s office for guidance. This link is to a directory of courts: http://www.georgiacourts.gov/sites/default/files/GA%20CTS%20DIRECTORY%2016-17.pdf.
If the divorce you are researching or documenting took place between 1952 and 1966, you may request a copy of the divorce record from the state Department of Public Health by following instructions on this page: https://dph.georgia.gov/divorce-records-0. If the divorce was granted after 1996, you must contact the clerk of the superior court in the county where the divorce was granted to request the record.
Probate court records
There are 159 probate courts in Georgia that handle wills and estates, guardianships, firearms licenses, and marriage licenses. Probate records may be necessary to trace heirs, establish responsibility for property that has been transferred or inherited, and to determine if the correct steps have been taken for gun licenses. Contact the clerk of the probate court in your county for records request information.
If you require copies of bankruptcy documents, do not look to statewide courts as bankruptcies are handled in U.S. District Courts. These courts, which also handle interstate crime, class action lawsuits, and other issues, can be searched on the following site: https://pcl.uscourts.gov/pcl/index.jsf.