Indiana Court Records
What are Indiana Family Court Records?
Indiana Family Court records contain details of cases and hearings held at Indiana courts handling family law, domestic relations, and juvenile matters. These are official court documents prepared before, during, and at the conclusion of cases and hearings. Family Court records include case files, dockets, transcripts, petitions, orders, agreements, decrees, and final judgements. Indiana makes most of these records available to the public and restricts access to those containing confidential and sensitive information.
What Is a Family Court in Indiana?
Indiana does not have a separate Family Court. Rather, most family law cases are handled by special divisions of the Indiana Superior Court. These Family Court divisions specialize in domestic relations matters including divorce, child and spousal support, and child visitation. Indiana Superior Courts also have Juvenile Court divisions with jurisdiction over cases involving minors. The probate division of these courts hear adoption cases and settle issues related to guardianship. In some counties, juvenile and probate cases are handled by divisions of county courts rather than Superior Courts.
How to Serve Family Court Papers in Indiana
The individual bringing a legal action in an Indiana Family Court must serve initial court papers as well as summons to the other party named in the lawsuit. Indiana allows the follow methods for court paper service:
- Certified mail
In most family law cases, the individual bringing the legal action cannot serve papers to the other person. Rather, they must hire a third-party aged 18 and above and not involved in the case. Indiana allows sheriffs, their deputies, and full-time state and municipal police officers to serve court papers. It is also possible to hire a process server to hand-deliver court papers on behalf of the party bringing the suit.
Law enforcement agents and process servers charge fees for this service. The court also requires proof of service obtained by the server and filed with the clerk of court.
Where hand-delivery is not possible, the court may approve service by certified mail. When sending copies of court documents by certified mail, they must include a return receipt. This serves as proof of receipt and must be filed with the court clerk.
Service by publication is a last resort when the party brings a legal action cannot find the other party. The court may also approve this service method if the other party evades service. Once approved by the court, the summons or notice to be served will be published in a newspaper circulating in an area where the third-party is known to live. Individuals that cannot afford newspaper publication may be permitted to post the notice or summons in the courthouse.
What Is Contempt of Family Court in Indiana?
A contempt of court results when one party in a family law case refuses or fails to comply with the orders and/or rulings of the court. There are four types of contempt in Indiana courts. These are direct, indirect, civil, and criminal. A direct contempt happens in court and in the presence of the judge. A party in a family law case that declares in court that they will not follow court orders is in direct contempt of court.
Indirect contempt occurs outside the court. This is the most common type and includes willful failure and clear refusal to follow a court order. Examples include:
- Refusal to pay child or spousal support
- Failure to relinquish assets awarded to the other party in a divorce
- Failure to comply with court-ordered child visitation schedule
- Refusal to pay the other party’s attorney fees as ordered by the court
Criminal and civil contempt can also be direct or indirect. Indirect criminal contempt of court results when one party interferes with court business outside the courtroom. This usually involves causing injury to an officer of the court in order to interfere with them carrying out court orders. Depending on the type and severity, Indiana Family Court punishes contempt of courts with public reprimands, fines, and jail times.
Are Family Court Records Public in Indiana?
Yes. Unless sealed, Family Court records are available to the public in Indiana. The parties involved in a case may ask the judge to restrict access to part of the records. The court may also remove sensitive information from these records. Such information includes the identities of minors and financial information.
Certain Family Court records, such as adoption records, are confidential under Indiana law and strictly restricted from public access. Most juvenile records are also not publicly available in Indiana and may be sealed, expunged, or destroyed by the order of a judge. However, the public does not need court order to access the records of juveniles alleged delinquent as a result of any of these alleged crimes:
- Murder or an act that would be considered a felony if committed by an adult
- Two unrelated acts, committed by a minor aged 12 and above, considered misdemeanors if committed by an adult
- Five unrelated acts, committed by a minor under the age of 12, considered misdemeanors if committed by an adult
When the public requests the court records of juveniles meeting the conditions listed above, they can access the following information:
- Name and age of minors
- Case summaries
- Summons, warrants, petitions, and orders
- Motions filed and final decrees
- Minors’ photos in cases of delinquent adjudication
In Indiana, courts, law enforcement agencies, schools, departments of child services, and the Office of the Secretary of Family and Social Services may obtain any juvenile court records.
Does Indiana Make Divorce Records Available to the Public?
Yes. Like most court records in the state, Indiana divorce records are matters of public record. In accordance with Indiana Public Records Law, all documents and other materials filed with the court are available to the public for reviewing and copying. The parties involved in a divorce may petition the court to have some or all of their records sealed. They have to convince a judge of any of these conclusions:
- Restricting access will serve public good and public interest
- Public access to information contained in the divorce case will increases the risk of harm to one of the parties involved or the general public
- Restricting public access is important to causing prejudice in another case currently in court
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.
How Do I Look Up Family Court Records in Indiana?
Some Indiana family law cases and court records are readily available online. Visit the Indiana Courts Case Search portal to look up public cases of the state’s Family Courts. You can find cases by searching by case number, citation number, names of the parties involved, or attorney. Indiana also provides dedicated registries for search for specific family law cases. These include child abuse cases, protection order cases, and guardianship cases. Note that some family law records such as adoption and most juvenile records are not available online.
For publicly available Family Court records, it’s also possible to access records at the clerk’s office in the county where the case was heard. Use the Indiana Court Directory to find the addresses and phone numbers of court clerks all over the state.
How Do I Request Indiana Family Court Records?
Indiana offers copies of some court documents and filings on its Indiana Courts Case Search portal. To download and print copies of Family Court records from this portal, start by visiting mycase.in.gov. Search for the case you need and look for the option to print available records. This portal does not charge for copies of court records.
For records that are not available on the Case Search portal, contact the clerk’s office in the county where the case was heard. Find the clerk’s office contact information from the Indiana Court Directory. Clerk’s offices also provide certified copies of court records. They charge nominal fees to search for and provide copies of these records.
Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.