Is there really such a thing as free Florida public records? Yes! It all depends on where you look and what you need. For example, you can find the indexes to many public documents in the state online. These indexes won’t give you the complete information that you’re looking for, but they will give you an outline of the record and let you know what you might find in the full version. Indexes are available at the website of the clerk of the court in which the event occurred. However, not every county has a website that maintains indexes, so you may need to do some additional searching.
You can view the entire record you’re looking for at the appropriate county court house for free. Nearly every county court in Florida has a computer with an internal internet connection that you can use to view the records you need. This connection isn’t viewable outside of the court, which necessitates an in-person visit. For courts that still don’t have a computer system, you can go and look through their actual old record books to find records you can view at no cost.
Of course, if you want to get a copy of a record, there will be a small charge. Usually, this is no more than a few dollars, unless the record has many pages. The more pages a record has, the pricier it will be to get a copy. While costs for copies varies from court to court, a dollar a page is about average. This can really add up if you need a lot of copies!
Some of the bigger counties in the state make a limited number of full free Florida public records available on their websites. Counties such as Hillsborough, Orange, Seminole, and Dade will allow you to view entire land transaction files (such as mortgages), marriage licenses, and criminal records online. However, for other documents, such as wills, probate, birth, divorce, death, child support, and family court documents, you’ll still need to go to the actual court house to view the entire record. Some records, such as guardianship documents, expunged or sealed records, and anything else pertaining to minors are not viewable by anyone except the person named in the documents, or their parents.
While finding free Florida public records is wonderful and convenient, it’s not always possible to get what you need without paying a small fee. The more records you need, the more often you need them, and the more pages in the record, the more money you’ll pay. Even if you’re just going to the court house to view a record without getting a copy, you’ll still pay money in gas and spend your valuable time to get there. In these cases, free records aren’t really free at all.
A much more cost-effective solution to getting so-called free Florida public records is to use a records retrieval service to obtain them.