California Divorce Records

A divorce certificate in California is a vital record that proves that a couple had their marriage dissolved legally. Divorce documents are only available after a California court has successfully finalized the dissolution. However, divorce records can take quite some time to retrieve so if you need a copy of divorce papers, make sure you make plans in advance. In fact, it might be better to request copies of divorce papers as soon as the divorce is finalize just so you always have them on hand. If you are wondering, “How can I get my divorce papers?” continue reading the sections below for more information on how to obtain divorce documents and the different types of documents.

Types of Divorce Records in California

Marriage and divorce records in California include several types of documents, each with different amounts of information. A divorce record contains all of the files and paperwork relevant to the divorce. This can include written testimony, financial documentation and the original divorce decree. A divorce certificate, also called a Certificate of Record, is legal proof a marriage dissolution took place and provides the least amount of information. Within a divorce certificate will be the names of the divorcees, the date of the divorce, the county where the divorce was filed and the court case number of the divorce. Former spouses may use this as basic evidence of marriage dissolution for legal purposes.

The court that approved the divorce will issue a divorce decree, which has more detailed information regarding the divorce. A decree of divorce will present the resolution of the dissolution, such as the division of property the spouses may have shared. Divorcees may use a copy of divorce decree court orders in the event that their former spouse does not adhere to the terms and conditions of the dissolution, which is why it is especially important for individuals to keep decrees in a safe location. Decrees of divorce will include the same information as the certificate as well as the following information:

  • Reason for divorce
  • Number of children (if any)
  • Court judgments
    • Property division
    • Alimony or other forms of spousal support
    • Custody agreements, including child support

Find out more about ordering vital records in California and which documents you should always have on hand by downloading our detailed guide.

Who can order divorce documents in California?

A California public record divorce allows anyone to obtain a record of the divorce, but most will only be able to do so through an informational record. Informational divorce records are certified copies but cannot be used for legal purposes, as they have limited information regarding the dissolution. However, divorce documents can be sealed at the request of either party involved in the divorce. If anyone tries to search divorce records that are sealed, those records will not come up through any public search. Online divorce records, as in the ones you can view via internet, are considered public.

For public or sealed records, only the divorcees named on the record, a parent of one of the divorcees or an entity with access to legal documents (such as an attorney) can order a certified authorized copy of the record. Authorized copies of divorce certificates can be used for legal purposes, such as remarriage. Likewise, only the divorced parties and their lawyers can obtain a divorce decree copy.

Uses for Divorce Records in California

After you have discovered how to get divorce papers in California, you might be wondering how they can be used. A divorce certificate will usually suffice for official purposes, but if you happen to have a copy of the divorce decree instead, you can provide that as well. However, a divorce decree is needed when one or both people involved in the dissolution wish to challenge a decision made by the court. After the dissolution, you will need to supply a divorce certificate if you are attempting to change your name with the Department of Motor Vehicles or Social Security Administration.

Divorcees will need to hold onto paperwork for years following their dissolution. Some counties will require proof of divorce or conduct a divorce record search before issuing a marriage license to a couple to verify that one of the intended spouses is not currently married to someone else.

How to Get a Copy of Divorce Papers in California

If you are wondering how to find divorce records in California, there are different methods depending on what type of document you are trying to get. If you are looking for a certified divorce certificate, you can contact the California Department of Public Health or the Superior Court of the county where the divorce was finalized. You will need to fill out an application for a certified copy of divorce certificate and send it to the corresponding agency along with the service fee. Petitioners will need to know details about the dissolution for officials to locate the vital record through a divorce search. However, CDPH Vital Records can only find divorce records for dissolutions that took place between 1962 and 1984. Furthermore, the processing time for your request can take up to six months.

If need to know how to get a copy of divorce decree, you will need inquire in the country where the divorce took place. Each county has its methods of requesting and delivering a decree of divorce, so you will have to contact the Superior Court in the county where the divorce was filed for more information. Typically, to get a copy of divorce decree, a service fee will be required to process your request. Furthermore, a certified copy of divorce decree orders is usually delivered by mail unless the county offers other ways. Obtaining a divorce decree copy through the county’s court may be a faster and easier process than attempting to go through Vital Records, so it worth the time it takes to contact your county’s Superior Court.

Download our guide to learn more about obtaining evidence of life milestone like birth, marriage and death records.


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Who Is Eligible to Obtain California Health Benefits?

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