In Canada (Except for Quebec), divorce records, including evidence such as texts or photos, are public records. That means anyone may access divorce documents presented in civil or family court in Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island as long as the records are not made private. However, depending on provincial laws, divorce records can also be sealed.
Below is everything you need to know.
Tip: You will need a court order to access sealed records.
Quick take: Are divorce records public in Alberta?
- Canada’s Divorce Act does not prohibit or restrict the publication of court files.
- The Central Registry of Divorce proceedings only grants access to someone else’s divorce records if you have consent from one party.
- A judge may order a ban, sealing, or other restrictions during proceedings.
- You may request the court to refer to you using your initials during divorce proceedings
- In Canada, you may access public records by completing the Request for Court Records or visiting the SCC (Supreme Court of Canada) registry.
- You may access divorce papers by contacting the courthouse in which the proceedings happened.
- Courthouses maintain records for divorce proceedings handled after 1919.
- To keep divorce files private, you must ask the court to restrict access.
- You will need a court order to access sealed court files.
- The conduct of a spouse is irrelevant (no need for evidence of adultery).
- Canadian Divorce Act
- Alberta’s Family Practice Note 10
Request a divorce certificate in Alberta here.
You may search for divorce and other court records in Alberta via the MyAlbertaeservices web portal.
Are Canadian divorces public records?
Under the Access to Information Act R.S.C 1985, c.A-1, divorce records are public. What is a public record in Canada?
The act defines public records as any record under the control of a government institution. Section 2.1. “Responsibilities of Government Institutions” states that:
“The head of a government institution shall, without regard to the identity of a person making a request for access to a record under the control of the institution, make every reasonable effort to assist the person in connection with the request, respond to the request accurately and completely and, subject to the regulations, provide timely access to the record in the format requested.”
Under Canadian law, only a court can give you a civil divorce. That makes divorce records public. What about transcripts?
What is vital to remember is that in most provinces, court transcripts are prepared by private companies that are reportable to the court. Consequently, to access some court transcripts, you may need a court order (private hearings), or you may have to pay a fee to the company that holds the transcripts.
What to remember:
- Provincial archives hold divorce records.
- You may access divorce records at the courthouse where proceedings happened.
- You must contact the courthouse that processed your divorce to get a copy of your divorce certificate.
- The province of Alberta does not collect patient medical files.
- You may access publicly accessible transcripts of court proceedings for a fee.
According to the Canadian Justice Department, the Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings keeps divorce records from all the provinces filed after July 2nd, 1968. You must complete the Search Request and Access Consent Form to access the records.
In short, in Canada, you may access public records if:
- You have the legal right to see the document.
- You pay the relevant fee.
- If the documents can be photocopied.
You access digital recordings of a court hearing if:
- You obtain judicial direction.
- Pay the relevant fee.
- Have the right to obtain a copy.
If there is a property involved you should consider learning about Dower Rights in Alberta.
How can you find out if someone is divorced in Alberta?
You may use the Central Registry of Divorce proceedings linked above to find the court that processed the divorce application. Once you find the court, you may submit a request.
NOTE. The registry only grants requests to access someone else’s divorce records -if you have consent from one of the divorcees or if you need the files to enforce a law.
Family practice Note 10 Alberta
When requesting divorce files in Alberta, you must comply with the requirements listed in Family Practice Note 10. Under Family Practice Note 10, the province of Alberta may grant you access to divorce records if:
- You are A legal representative for either party or the children.
- Member of the media.
- A person authorized by either party.
If you are not any of the above, section 5 requires, quote:
“Any other person who requests access to a Court File in a Family Law Proceeding must, each time they request access, complete and serve a “Request to Access Family Law File” form upon the parties to the action, the lawyers of record and the lawyer for the child or children of the parties, and file an Affidavit of Service with the Court.”
Are divorces public records in Alberta?
Yes. All evidence presented in the divorce proceeding in Alberta are public records. To access these records, you must visit the courthouse where proceedings happened.
What counts as evidence in a divorce?
During divorce proceedings, either party may present the following as evidence.
- Abuse. To prove claims of spousal abuse, you may need hospital records, witness statements, and police records.
- Adultery. Evidence of adultery includes credit card charges, photos, Emails, texts, online posts, receipts, social media activity, and so on.
- Hidden assets. Includes secret bank accounts, unreported income, safe deposit boxes, and retirement accounts.
It is worth noting that under the Divorce Act, spouse conduct is not a relevant factor in divorce proceedings. However, you may submit the evidence above if necessary.
What to remember:
before divorce proceedings, you may ask for the following protections.
- You may ask the court to refer to you using your initials instead of your full name.
- You may request the court to remove identifying information about children.
How to seal divorce records in Alberta
Section 8 of Alberta’s Family Practice Note 10 requires that, quote:
“If a party or a child of a party wishes to prevent access to all or part of the Court File, he or she must bring a Restricted Court Access Application under Part 6, Division 4 of the Alberta Rules of Court. The applicant must give notice under Rule 6.31, including notice to the person requesting access to the file and notice to the accredited media under Rule 6”
What is a Restricted Access Application in Alberta?
A restricted Access Application is a court order that restricts access to your divorce records. You may complete and submit the form here.
What to remember
- You must apply to restrict access to civil or family matters five days before hearings.
Can I look up someone else’s divorce records in Alberta?
If the case records are public (the parties did not seal the records). You may look up divorce records in Alberta at the court where proceedings happened or via the web portal linked above.
Where to find divorce records in Alberta
Note that the year the divorce happened determines the location of the records. Consequently, below is what you need to know:
1841-1968: divorces passed through acts of parliament:
You may access these divorce records at the Library and Archives Canada Acts of Divorce online here.
You may access divorce records for that period at Alberta’s provincial archives.
For divorce records dating back to 1975 to date, you must contact the courthouse where divorce proceedings happened.
In short, divorce records and civil court records in Alberta are public records. Thus, anyone may access the records by contacting the courthouse and paying a fee.