Divorce records guide

Divorce files contain evidence for each divorce case including Judicial Separations. They can include petitions for the dissolution of marriage, affidavits, petitions for maintenance, marriage certificates, and sometimes the decree nisi and decree absolute.

Which divorce files are held in the State Archives Collection?

1873- January 1969, July 1969 - 1976

We hold original divorce case papers for the years 1873- January 1969 (part), March 1969 (part), July 1969 -1971, and 1976.

We hold copies of divorce case papers for the years 1972-1975 on microfilm reel.

For 1972-1975, we may also hold a copy of the Decree Nisi. Please see NRS-13498 (listed below) for more information.

NSW Supreme Court

February - June 1969

Please contact the NSW Supreme Court for information about accessing records not held in the State Archives collection.

Federal Circuit and Family Law Court of Australia

Divorce records after 1976

For records of divorce after 1976 contact the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

Divorce records: what the files can tell you

Divorce files can be a detailed source of information for family history, providing extra details that may not have been discussed or known within the family

Photograph from Divorce papers Irene Elizabeth Hoskins - William Hoskins

Divorce records in NSW

This webinar provides tips and techniques for researching divorce case papers in our collection

How do I access the records?

Follow these steps to find and access divorce files held in the State Archives Collection

Major sources for divorce records

Divorce case papers
The Divorce case papers is our key record series relating to divorce. The case papers contain evidence for each particular case including Judicial separations. The information in the divorce case papers varies considerably.
1873-Jan 1969, Mar 1969 (part), Jul 1969 - 1971 and 1976 (original case papers) 1972-1975 (copies on microfilm reel)
Decrees nisi [Supreme Court]
These are official copies of divorce decrees nisi.
The information in each document includes: names of parties, date of hearing, grounds for the dissolution of marriage, court orders, suit numbers and dates of decree nisi, order and decree absolute.
We hold Decrees Nisi for the years 197-1976 (with gaps). We hold very few for the years 1963-1969.
1963-1969 (very few) 1970-1976 (with gaps)
NRS 21360, [8/3242-47]; Fiche 6130-6410
Index to matrimonial causes files
Arranged chronologically and then by the first letter of the surname, the index provides the registered number for the divorce case papers. Check this index for the years 1972-1975 for a case number before viewing the papers on microfilm. Entries for names Kon-Z in the period 1970-74 appear to be missing - please contact us for assistance.
Information from this index was used to create the online Divorce Index, 1873-1923.

Search the index

Browse all
Page from the Divorce file of Stanley Grenfell Lloyd and Alice Kathleen Lloyd

Divorce records index 1873-1923

Search 21,000+ entries - divorce files can include petitions for the dissolution of marriage, petitions for maintenance, marriage certificates, decrees nisi and decrees absolute

Additional sources

Supreme Court: Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Jurisdiction

Below is a select list of records series from the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Jurisdiction. More series are listed in our catalogue under Agency No. 1059, Family Law Division of the Supreme Court of NSW.

Process books relating to Matrimonial causes files
Entries in the process books are arranged chronologically and give the; case file number; names of petitioner, respondent, co-respondent (if applicable) and petitioners and respondents solicitors; dates for the petition, appearance, answer, draft issues, trial, and decree. Some volumes also show the name of the judge and the grounds of the decree.
9 Jul 1948-21 May 1973; 3 Oct 1973-23 Jun 1976 
Minutes of divorce and matrimonial causes
The volumes show dates of hearing, names of litigants, respective attorneys and co-respondents and in some cases names of witnesses. They contain basic details such as decisions of the court, judgments regarding costs, judgments concerning applications for custody of children and results of applications for decrees nisi to be made absolute.
Preliminary hearings for the determining the date of later hearings are included.
Copies of letters sent
These are letterpress copies of letters sent to solicitors and private individuals. Also includes some copies of decrees absolute.
14 Jul 1873-21 May 1937
Orders for the payment of alimony
These volumes contain orders (letters) authorizing the payment out of the Divorce Court Trust Fund of monies received for alimony, and specifying the persons to whom such monies should be paid.
7 May 1908-Mar 1932

Court Reporting Office: Transcripts

NRS 2713, Transcripts of evidence of the various Courts and Royal Commissions and Boards of Inquiry, 1899-2001 includes transcripts of divorce cases. Not all divorce cases were transcribed. Transcripts may be arranged annually, or by judge. Search the catalogue for transcripts of divorce cases.

Judges Notebooks

Judges Notebooks contain notes made by the judge on cases, including divorce cases. The information can vary greatly: some judges write a summary of evidence while others note particular points of interest and some use their own shorthand.

See our catalogue for Judges notebooks in Divorce. You can narrow down your search by adding the surname of the Judge (if known).

NSW marriage certificates

Up until the end of 1983 the original marriage certificate was annotated when a marriage was dissolved. Marriage certificates are held by the Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages.


The State Library of NSW and some large university libraries hold newspapers, which may provide details concerning a particular divorce case.

Digitised copies of newspapers are available on the National Library of Australia's Trove website.

The Sydney Morning Herald published a list of cases to be heard before the Supreme Court including divorce in its Law Notices. Some published indexes to The Sydney Morning Herald are available. Newspapers such as the Truth sometimes published salacious details from divorce cases.

Administrative background

In the catalogue

Over 200,000 divorce files are listed and around 2,300 have been digitised through our digitisation-on-demand copy service. Files that are older than 75 years can be viewed online.

Over 40,000 decrees nisi are listed. Most of these date between 1970-1976

In the Reading Room

Access original uncopied divorce files for free

Copy order service

Order copies of divorce files and decrees nisi straight from the catalogue or through our Copy services page

Reader's ticket

To pre-order and view original records in the reading room you need a reader's ticket

Apply here
Divorce papers from Archives Behind the Scenes

Archives behind the scenes - divorce case papers

In this episode Bonnie talks about divorce case papers in the State Archives Collection

c.1923 colour sketch of alternative cantilever Sydney Harbour Bridge

Discovering the State Archives Collection

Explore the State Archives Collection on the MHNSW website

Portrait of an unidentified family

Family history guide

Tracing your family history is always easier working from the present to the past

Sarah Wentworth (1853)

Promised in marriage, courting in Colonial NSW

Free men and women who courted were considered to be ‘promised in marriage’. When a promise of marriage was broken—or breached—the offending party could be pursued through the civil courts for the value of ‘lost expectations’