How to Obtain Court Records in Indiana
Researching court records in Indiana requires some knowledge of the state judiciary structure so that you identify the appropriate court.
There are three courts of limited jurisdiction in Indiana, the town courts, city courts, and small claims courts of Marion County. Each are limited in scope to misdemeanors like traffic infractions, violations of city ordinances, trespassing, and small claims cases. The Marion County small claims court hears cases such as landlord-tenant disputes and other civil proceedings that represent $8,000 in value or less. There is one stand-alone probate court, in St. Joseph, that hears general civil and criminal matters.
In Indiana, circuit and superior courts have mostly merged through a petition process, resulting in 91 circuits among the state’s 92 counties. Circuit courts hold trials, have general civil and criminal jurisdiction as well as appellate responsibilities for city and town courts. These courts have probate divisions that handle adoptions, estates, trusts, and wills. At this level is a freestanding tax court that is seated in Indianapolis and hears appeals of tax commissioners’ decisions.
There are five districts for the court of appeals, and each hears cases in three-judge panels as assigned by the state supreme court. The supreme court is the final say on the constitutionality of state laws as well as the application of law within the state. It reviews cases that are chosen by justices as well as selected appeals of lower court cases.
Indiana has streamlined its searchable database of court records, allowing universal searches from one point by name, case number or attorney’s name on this site: https://public.courts.in.gov/home/portal. Search results reveal only the minimum amount of information such as plaintiff and defendant’s names, case numbers, and dates. To get a transcript of the case or an official document relating to the case’s resolution, one must make a formal request to the clerk of the court where the case was conducted.
An official divorce decree can be important to keep on file for things like financial records, name changes, and compliance with custody agreements. Family courts are divisions of the superior or circuit courts in Indiana. Requests for divorce decree or other family court records should be made to the clerk of the court where the divorce was granted. This directory will help locate the right clerk’s office: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/2794.htm.
Probate records are official documents that determine the division of property when a person dies. Probate records include property deeds, lists of assets, and identification of heirs. Other probate court responsibilities may include adoption proceedings, guardianships, and elder services. These courts are divisions of superior or circuit courts, so records requests should be made to the clerk of the superior or circuit court where the person lived. For a directory of courts, see this page: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/2794.htm.
If you are a creditor of a person who declared bankruptcy it is important to make your claim to a portion of his or her liquidated assets within the court’s limited timeframe. Bankruptcy proceedings are held in federal courts, of which there are two in Indiana. U.S. District courts (federal) also handle criminal proceedings of those who have broken federal law as well as class action lawsuits and lawsuits between states. Use this information to locate the right federal court to make a records request: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/2811.htm.