How to Obtain Court Records in Michigan
Michigan has phased out most of its municipal courts, leaving district courts at the lowest rung of the state judiciary. District courts have limited jurisdiction over criminal cases and only hear civil cases with under $25,000 at stake. Other types of issues heard in district courts include small claims, misdemeanors, and traffic infractions.
Circuit courts handle most of the serious criminal cases in Michigan as well as appeals of district court cases and the decisions of state agencies. There are 57 circuit courts in Michigan.
Panels of three judges comprise the court of appeals, which hears disputes over lower court decisions. There are four circuits of these appellate courts across the state.
At the top of the Michigan judicial system is the state supreme court, which hears appeals of lower court decisions.
Requests for records
There are many situations in which an official court document can be helpful to have: when proving your innocence, when asking for enforcement of a court order such as a restraining or protection order, when proving that you’ve satisfied the conditions of probation or parole.
Michigan’s court records are searchable by party name, attorney name, or case number on this site: http://courts.mi.gov/Courts/COA/Pages/CaseSearch.aspx. The results are likely to only show minimal information such as names, charges, and dates. The results can be a starting point to requesting more complete records or individual documents from the clerk of the court where the documents originated (where the trial was held, etc).
It’s possible to order a divorce record through VitalChek – instructions are found here: http://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-71551_4645_6245---,00.html. A divorce decree might be more helpful as it is a comprehensive document that describes the conditions of a divorce including child custody, alimony, division of shared property, and name changes. Having a copy of a divorce decree can help get divorce conditions enforced. For a complete and official decree, contact the district court where the divorce was granted.
Probate courts generally handle wills, estates, adoptions, and guardianships. If you need a copy of a will or probate court decision, you may search on the general court case search engine for more details: http://courts.mi.gov/opinions_orders/case_search/pages/default.aspx. Use this directory to contact the clerk of the probate court where the records are held: http://www.wcpc.us/links/michiganprobatecourts_address.htm.
These records are subject to the limits of confidentiality, which means that juveniles, medical information, and the names of victims of certain crimes may reduce the complete court record to just that portion that does not contain private information.
State courts do not oversee bankruptcy cases, federal courts do. The U.S. District Courts in Michigan handle lawsuits involving more than one state, federal criminal cases, and class action lawsuits. To search federal court records, use this site: https://pcl.uscourts.gov/pcl/index.jsf.