So you’re doing some background checking for a client that lived in Washington. You should have no problem searching for civil records. There are many internet sites that are devoted to giving people access to public records and this includes civil records– not all are government related.
You should have no problem getting a hold of information regarding a civil case or document that you are interested in. Whether it’s completely accurate is another question.
What am I searching for again?
First of all, just to make sure that your search starts in the right place, what exactly is a civil record?
To put it simply, it is all non-criminal litigation, involving a plaintiff and defendant.
- Court cases dealing with divorces, law suits or such things as land records and many other types.
- A criminal case involves the state against an individual who has broken the laws and the individual is punished by being required to carry out some jail time or in the most extreme of cases, execution is the punishment although, civil cases can also involve the state.
In a civil case, the individual is most commonly required only to pay some damages to the other person or the plaintiff,
- For example, a fine. A website called publicrecordsguide.com sums it up nicely; “It (civil court) relates to the private rights and remedies sought by civil actions, which are actions brought to enforce, redress or protect those rights. In other words, the term “civil” encompasses all types of actions other than criminal.”
If you needed it, divorce records are considered civil documents and would be available through the Department of Health (DoH) for the state of Washington. They have instructions on their website on how to go about requesting a divorce record.
When ordering divorce records from before January 1, 1968 and from the last four months, you will need to contact the county clerk in the county where the divorce was filed. From January 1, 1968 to four months from the present, you will need to contact the Center for Health statistics.
Through the DoH, you can order divorce certificates online. This is done through an independent company and of course there is a fee. You may order them by phone which costs $31.50 and you may order by mail. Ordering by mail costs $20 and takes three to four weeks to receive a certified copy.
There is also a form to fill out when you order these records where you need to know the names of the individuals, the approximate date of divorce and the county in which the divorce was filed. You may also do a “walk-in, same day service” request that also costs $20. All in all, divorce documents are some of the easier records to get a hold of.
Visiting your County Clerk
For your employee screening process, ask the county of residence. If you know the county where the filing took place, the county clerk’s office is the best place to start looking for your document.
All counties have a website that you can visit to access most information regarding that county including governmental representatives and the county clerk. (If you go to www.courts.wa.gov website and find the court directory, this will take you to a listing of the counties and links to their websites.)
A clerk maintains all court documents, including civil documents such as civil lawsuits, change of name, petition to restore/right to posses firearms, and many other civil filings. Contacting the county clerk would be the way to go at first. There will be some fees for accessing these records. Some counties, such as Okanogan County, have request documents to fill out and list their fees on the website.
Okanogan County charges $20 for researching a file and then $5 for the first page and $1 for every page after that for a certified copy and for non-certified copies, $0.50 per page. On their “requests document” you will need to put down the case number or type, the name of file, name of document, the estimated date of document, whether you want certified or regular copies and then of course your personal information.
The general difference between certified or non-certified copies of these documents is that certified copies could be used in court or for “official” purposes whereas non-certified documents can not and are for informational purposes only. Generally, certified copies cost more and are sometimes harder to get. Anyway, every county will have some information on their website detailing how to contact their offices including the county clerk and many will have information about how to request these documents.
Don’t want to travel? Yay for the internet!
If you are looking for information about a court case, through the Washington courts website, at www.court.wa.gov, you can also search for court cases by case number, name or business.
There are many other websites out there that will come up when you are searching for Washington civil records. Most of these are not government related and therefore one never knows how accurate they really are and there will almost always be a fee for this. Keep in mind that searching for civil documents of all kinds may require a little more searching, but starting at the county clerks office would be an advisable course of action.
Categories: State News and Tips