This post relates specifically to the search for old Dominican divorce records
in the Santo Domingo. Dominican courts were slow to re-open following the initial Covid-19 lockdown. Access to the courthouse was briefly by appointment only, and visitors were solely permitted in a specific holding-area downstairs, but access to the whole building is now possible without any need for an appointment.
Almost all divorce enquiries that we receive are from US citizens and other non-Dominicans who had a quickie Dominican Republic divorce
in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s.
Many of our clients can't remember where or when the divorce was granted. In fact, every week we are asked "How do I know if I am divorced in the Dominican Republic
Fortunately, we know from years of experience that most quickie divorces were decreed either in one of 5 civil former district
courts which are now located in the Palace of the Court of Appeals in downtown Santo Domingo, or in the nearby provincial town of San Cristóbal, just west of the capital.
Palace of the Court of Appeals of the National District in Santo Domingo where we obtain many Dominican divorce decrees for our clients
With the reorganisation of the Dominican legal system over the years, the 5 district
courts were renamed as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
and 5th courtrooms
. And, to complicate matters further, the files of, say, the 1st district
court did not automatically end up after reorganisation with the 1st courtroom
; the archives seem to have been divided up randomly among the 5 courtrooms, so whilst we usually start searching, say, in the files of the 2nd courtroom
for an old divorce from the former 2nd district
court, we know that if we don’t find it there, we are just as likely to locate the decree in the 1st, 3rd, 4th
or 5th courtroom
There are other divorce courts in Santo Domingo nowadays such as this Family Courthouse .
In the 3 months since the Dominican Republic’s legal system gradually started reopening following months of covid-19 lockdown, we've been to the Palace of Appeals building in Santo Domingo on several occasions to handle a backlog of Dominican divorce enquiries, so we can now comment on how it all works.
Post Covid-19 initially no more than 10 visitors were allowed into the Palace of the Court of Appeals at any one time
Free access to the Santo Domingo divorce courts to search for Dominican divorce records
is now possible again.
An bundle of judgment dockets from only one of the 5 civil chambers from the year 1996
On entering the building, we can now go directly to the customer-service area of any of the 5 civil courtrooms and ask them to hand over the divorce decree ledger for any specific year. There is a small sitting area where we can make ourselves comfortable when leafing through the old ledgers and bundles of papers.
The 1st courtroom has this index of their 1974 judgments well organised and bound
For the purpose of this example, let's say we want to search for a divorce decree from the 2nd district
court from January 1996. We ask them for their judgement ledger for 1996, and since the Santo Domingo courts insist that we do the searching, not their staff, we search.
It's not always a book that they hand us; it’s often a loose bundle of unorganized dog-eared sheets full of sometimes semi-illegible handwriting, often with parts of pages missing, in no specific chronological order. Each page might have the details of 15 to 20 judgments, sometimes judgments from January are mixed up with those of the following July and/or November. So even if we are searching for a judgment from January 1996, we may have to browse through the entire bundle! And if we don't find it in the 2nd courtroom's
judgment book, then we must search in the archives of the 4 remaining courtrooms.
This gentleman about to search in this bundle of decrees for a judgment
This search for a decree can often take hours because there are hundreds of pages to read through, and sometimes one has to wait for the judgment “books” to be brought to us. Lawyers in San Cristóbal carved out a niche for themselves in the 1980s and 1990s, specialising in quickie divorces. In the photo - San Cristobal Palace of Justice.
If we locate the decree, we alert the court attendant who asks us for a written request on the spot (known locally as an instancia
), and asks for payment which must be in the form of adhesive stamps and a printed receipt in a specific amount, issued by the Dominican tax department which we have to have bought in advance.
The court files from long ago are housed in a separate unit in another part of town so it takes some days or weeks until we receive the decree from the court. Once we have the decree, we can then have it legalised and apostilled before shipping to our client.
If you would like to order your Dominican divorce certificate
, Dominican divorce decree or any other documents from the Dominican Republic, order forms can be found on the links below: