How to Obtain Court Records in New York
The state of New York has many levels of courts depending upon one’s location. In the boroughs around New York City, the judiciary structure is slightly different than in other parts of the state, with more specialized courts to handle the massive number of people who have traffic violations, for instance.
Most New York towns have justice or village courts, which in Nassau County is the equivalent of district courts and the New York City equivalent of city courts. All of these have approximately the same jurisdiction over small claims, misdemeanors, and landlord-tenant issues. Specialized courts deal exclusively with family matters (juvenile, child custody) and probate (wills and estates, adoption, guardianship).
The state supreme court is not one court as it is in other states , but an entire category of courts that are the general trial courts in the state. There is one supreme court in each of the 62 counties of New York. This court also has the exclusive jurisdiction over divorce and annulments.
Appeals of lower court decisions are made to the appellate court division of the supreme court. At the top of the judiciary is the Court of Appeals, which hears disputes over decisions of the appellate court division of the supreme court as well as some direct appeals of lower courts.
Obtaining court documents
Many situations are alleviated with the right paperwork. Having a copy of a court document can prove one’s innocence, show that a court fine has been paid, get a protection order enforced, or evict a deadbeat tenant.
This page describes different ways of obtaining court documents, such as using a computer terminal at the courthouse: https://www.nycourts.gov/foil/CourtRecords.shtml. This page allows one to search for court records (but it does not include all courts): https://nycourts.gov/courthelp/GoingToCourt/records.shtml. If you know the location of the court where the case was heard, you may contact the clerk of the court to request documents, but a case number is likely required.
Child custody, alimony, division of shared assets, and name changes are some of the issues that arise after a divorce. A decree is the document that both parties agreed upon before a superior court judge who granted the divorce. Having a copy of the decree can clarify some issues. To get a copy, contact the clerk of the court where the divorce was granted.
The property and assets of a person who dies is usually divided among his or her heirs with the supervision of a probate court judge. This page describes more about the court and how the records are created and disseminated: https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/WhenSomeoneDies/probate.shtml.
State courts are not responsible for bankruptcy court proceedings. Each state has at least one federal court, known as a U.S. District Court, which handles bankruptcies, federal crimes, and lawsuits that involve more than one state. To search federal records, go to www.pacer.gov.