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California Divorce Certificate

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What is a Divorce Certificate in California?

In California, a divorce certificate is an official document that provides information about a divorce that occurred in the state. California divorce certificates, also known as "Certificate of Records, "are categorized along with other kinds of California divorce records like divorce decrees and dissolution of marriage records. The typical details contained in a divorce certificate contains include:

  • The names of the divorced parties
  • The name of the county where the divorce was filed
  • The filing date
  • Court case number

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is the government agency responsible for issuing and maintaining divorce certificates. However, the CDPH only holds and maintains divorce certificates for divorces that occurred between 1962 through June 1984. The Superior Court of the county where the divorce occurred is responsible for preserving divorce certificates for divorces that occurred after June 1984.

Are Divorce Certificates Public in California?

Yes, per the Government Code § 7920.000 et seq (the California public records act or CPRA), court records are public. Divorce records, including certificates and divorce decrees, are maintained as court records in California, making them accessible to anyone who requests them from their custodian. Furthermore, the CDPH places no restrictions on who can order divorce certificates they maintain. However, divorcees can petition a court to have their divorce records sealed which would limit the general public access to such records.

Where to Get a Divorce Certificate in California

Interested persons can get a divorce certificate in California through the state's Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the county clerk's office of in most county superior courts. The CDPH maintains divorce records, including divorce certificates for divorces that occurred between 1962 to June 1984. Hence, record seekers can query the CDPH to get divorce certificates produced within the aforementioned time frame. Meanwhile, the clerk's office of the county's Superior Court, where a divorce was finalized, maintains divorce records (including divorce certificates) of divorces after June 1984. For records prior to both time frames, requesters may utilize the state's archives.

How to Get a Divorce Certificate in California

If the divorce occurred between 1962 to June 1984, record seekers could query the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to get the divorce certificate. The CDPH only accepts divorce certificate requests via mail. Hence, record seekers can order a divorce certificate within the three-year range by completing an application (VS 113-B) and mailing it to the CDPH. The application is also available in Spanish.

The requester must mail the completed application with the required $16 fee per copy of the certificate requested. This charge may be paid by check or money order payable to CDPH-vital records. Making payment by cash is prohibited. The completed form and fees should be mailed in a self-addressed envelope to the CDPH at:

California Department of Public Health
Vital Records – MS 5103
P.O. Box 997410
Sacramento, CA 95899-7410

Requesters who are using a courier service that requires a physical address for delivery can use the following address instead:

California Department of Public Health
Vital Records – MS 5103
1501 Capitol Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95814

It may take more than six months for CDPH to process an application, after which the requested record would be sent to the requester if found. The CDPH will issue a Certificate of No Public Record without refunding the fee (per state law) if the desired record is not found. A Rejected application will be returned to the requester, along with a letter outlining what needs to be corrected. Common reasons applications are rejected include; insufficient fees or incorrect or inadequate information provided on the application.

Alternatively, record seekers can get a California divorce certificate by querying the Superior Court clerk's office where the divorce was finalized. Interested persons can use the find your court directory provided on the state judiciary website to find the contact information of all Superior Courts in California. Similar to the CDPH, some Superior courts provide request forms record seekers can complete and mail to the court to request copies of a divorce certificate. For instance, record seekers can complete the Family Records Copy Request Form for Santa Clara County Superior Court and mail it to the court clerk's office to order copies of the divorce records the court maintains. Record seekers can also opt to visit the appropriate Superior Court in person to request copies of divorce certificates.

To get a certified copy of your divorce record, you will be required to provide proof of eligibility and an additional fee to cover the cost of notarization. This is the case for death records/death certificate, birth certificate/record, and any certified copy of a vital record.

Some third-party websites also provide services that allow record seekers to request copies of a California divorce certificate. Most of these third-party websites provide online forms record seekers would need to fill out with details about the desired divorce records to request divorce certificates. Some of these details include both spouses' names and dates of birth, the date of divorce, and the state, county, and city where the divorce certificate was issued. Requesters should note that third-party websites are generally not regulated by the government. Hence, the availability and accuracy of divorce certificates ordered through such websites may vary from government sources.

What is a Dissolution of Marriage Certificate in California?

The term "dissolution of marriage" and "divorce" are used interchangeably in California to mean the same thing. Therefore, a dissolution of marriage certificate and a divorce certificate refers to the same legal document that provides basic information about a divorce. Another term used in place of "dissolution of marriage certificate" and "divorce certificate" is "certificate of record".

How Can I Get a Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage in California?

A "certificate of dissolution of marriage" and a "divorce certificate" are the same. Hence, obtaining a certificate of dissolution of marriage is the same process as earlier described. A marriage dissolution certificate can be obtained through the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the clerk's office of the County Superior Court where the divorce was finalized, and through third-party websites.

What is the Difference Between a California Divorce Decree and a Divorce Certificate?

Although both a divorce decree and a divorce certificate can serve as evidence of a marriage or domestic partnership dissolution in California, both documents differ in different aspects. A divorce decree is generally more detailed compared to a divorce certificate. A divorce decree is a final judgment issued by a court regarding a divorce case. In California, a divorce cannot be legally finalized without the issuance of a divorce decree. Meanwhile, a divorce certificate provides basic information about a divorce. Other key differences between a divorce decree and a divorce certificate include the following:

  • Content: A divorce certificate only contains basic information concerning a divorce, such as the names of the divorcees and the location and date of the divorce. On the other hand, a divorce decree is an extensive document with multiple pages. This document contains all the details about a divorce, including the divorce terms and information about the divorcees. Some information on a divorce decree includes spousal support details, visitation rights, child custody agreements, property division, and other matters that came up during the divorce proceedings.
  • The agency responsible for their issuance: A divorce decree is strictly a court document. Meanwhile, both a court and the California Department of Health (in certain situations) can issue a divorce certificate.
  • Level of importance; a divorce decree is a legally binding document that signifies the end of a marriage or domestic partnership. By contrast, a divorce certificate is merely an informative document proving that a legally binding process (a divorce proceeding) has occurred.

How Can I Get My Divorce Certificate Online in California?

No official or government-owned repositories provide divorce certificates online in California. The only way to get a divorce certificate is by mailing a request to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Alternatively, a record seeker can query the County's Superior Court clerk's office where the divorce was finalized to get a divorce certificate.

Record seekers can also order a divorce certificate online using third-party websites. However, these websites generally do not provide an online copy of the requested certificate. Instead, the service provider may provide divorce record information or mail a physical copy of the requested certificate to the mailing address provided by the requester.

Where Can I Get a Copy of My Divorce Papers in California?

Interested persons can get copies of their divorce papers in California through the County's Superior Court clerk's office, where they filed their divorce case. Record seekers can either visit the clerk's office to request copies of divorce papers or mail a written request to the clerk's office. Regardless of the request method used by a requester, they would need to provide information about the desired record to enable the clerk to identify the requested record. This detail includes the case number, the date the divorce was finalized, and the names of the divorcees.

Some courts also maintain online portals that record seekers can use to request copies of the court's divorce documents. An example of such a portal is the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda Domain Web portal. On the portal, record seekers can search for divorce papers by using the case number or name of the case parties. While case number searches are typically available without restriction, records seekers would need to register an account to conduct a search using the name of case parties. This restriction is a common theme across search portals maintained by Superior Courts in California.