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California Marriage Certificate Search

Per California Code §§ 300-500, marriage is a civil agreement between two eligible persons, wherein a marriage license and certificate are allocated as authorized by law. In California, marriage certificates are held by the county, town, or city clerk or court recorder’s office in the jurisdiction where the marriage occurred or the marriage license was issued. They are also held by the Vital Records Department of the California Department of Public Health, which is the official custodian of all California marriage records.

A marriage certificate is an important legal document needed for a number of reasons but not limited to the ones listed below:

  • It could serve as evidence that a name change as it authorizes the married persons to change their names after getting married
  • Can be used to resolve issues relating to child legitimacy and probate
  • Essential during marriage annulment proceedings
  • Can be used as components of a genealogical record
  • Used as proof that a person is lawfully married to their spouse as it shows the date, time, and location of the wedding
  • The certificate can be presented as a legal document when one desires to include their spouse in their employment benefits, change insurance, bank accounts, or credit cards
  • A copy of the marriage certificate may be demanded by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) during audits

The County Clerk's office, in compliance with the Family Code, Section 511, provides public and confidential marriage licenses and serves as the registrar in charge of confidential marriages in California. The County Recorder's office, on the other hand, is the local custodian of public marriages, including declared and non-clergy marriages as stipulated by the Health and Safety Code, Sections 102285 and 102295. Where applicable, they are the resource for obtaining other kinds of marriage records, including same-sex marriage licenses, certified marriage certificate, and other vital records also accessible through the state vital records office.

Are Marriage Certificates Public in California?

Yes, marriage certificates are public per California public records act Code 7920 et seq. Thus except otherwise stated by the law, anyone interested in obtaining public records can request an informational copy of a public marriage license in the state.

Nevertheless, California is remarkable and different as it provides both confidential and public marriage certificates to its residents based on the type of marriage ceremony conducted. The Confidential marriage certificates are only available for access to both of the persons involved in the confidential marriage or someone else issued a court order to access them. Meanwhile, public marriage certificates can be accessed by parties not involved in the marriage, such as law enforcement agencies, the parents or relatives of the married individuals, or the attorney of any of both parties.

Interested individuals are to note that access may not always be granted to review California public marriage certificates as they may be sealed by law due to what they contain.

What is a Marriage Certificate in California?

A marriage certificate is a legal document that serves as official proof that two eligible and consenting persons have a valid marriage contract. California marriage certificates are documents disseminated to individuals after the marriage ceremony - not before, as they are not licenses - as evidence of marriage rather than authorization for marriage.

The marriage certificate is issued by the county clerk or county recorder (depending on the type of marriage) after the marriage license has been returned to the issuing officer and appropriately registered as a vital record with the state. A marriage certificate is expected to contain at least the full name of both individuals, age, address at the time of marriage, parents' information, and names of witnesses, if available.

What Do Marriage Certificates Contain in California?

California marriage certificates, whether public or confidential, usually contain a number of important details about the persons that got married and the marriage ceremony. The information contained in the certificate can be helpful in tracking genealogical history and when conducting marriage records searches, as well as for other various purposes. The contents of a marriage certificate may vary depending on the county in which the marriage was registered and what is obtainable in that county. As stated in section 307 of the Family Code, a marriage certificate issued in California is expected to contain the following:

  • The personal data of both individuals married, including their birth dates, the full name given at birth or by court proclamation, place of birth, mail address, and other contact information.
  • Age of both parties
  • Profession and employment status of the married persons
  • Profession and employment status of the parents of both parties
  • Year of marriage
  • Name and address of the registering county
  • Names, place of birth, and contact information of each party's parents
  • Full names issued at the birth of both party's parents
  • The number of marriages the married persons have each had before the recently conducted one
  • Present marital status of both parties
  • The name borne by both individuals before the marriage (preferably at the period of the marriage license application if the name is distinct from the one given at birth or by court order
  • The new name, if any, chosen by both parties for use after the solemnization of the marriage
  • The marriage license details, such as the county, license number, and issuing date of the license
  • Information showing that both parties went into the marriage such as the following:
    • The date, time, and location of the marriage ceremony
    • The full name, signature, and mail address of two or more witnesses of the marriage ceremony.
    • The religious institution or sect of the married parties
    • Written approval of both parties stating that the marriage was carried out in accordance with the rules and traditions of their religious institution or sect.
  • The signatures of the parties married.
  • Signature of the parents of the married persons if available
  • Signature and stamp of the issuing official
  • Any other information specified by the State Registrar

Where Do I Get a Certified Copy of My Marriage Certificate?

The pace and ease with which a person can obtain a certified copy of a marriage certificate in California largely depend on whether the person knows the particular county where the marriage ceremony was conducted, the marriage date and type of marriage entered into, and other vital things information. If the inquirer knows the information listed above, they can then contact the town or city clerk, county clerk, or recorder's office to obtain a copy of the marriage certificate, depending on whether the marriage was public or confidential. All public marriage certificates can be obtained from the county recorder's office by persons involved in the marriage, their relatives, or any interested person. Nonetheless, if the marriage certificate is confidential, the locale of search would be the county clerk's office in the judicial district where the certificate was administered, and only the parties whose names are on the certificate or individuals issued a California court order would be permitted to retrieve the marriage certificate.

If the inquirer does not know where the marriage occurred and the date of the marriage ceremony falls between 1905 to 1999 or 2009 to 2020, there are alternative options for retrieval. The information seeker can then source the marriage certificate(if public) at the California Vital Records Office. Also, since the California Family History Library kept copies of marriages conducted before1905 when the statewide recording of marriages began, individuals can contact the library administration to obtain copies of their marriage certificates. Interested individuals can also request a public marriage certificate online via an independent third party recommended by the Vital Records Department.

How Do I Get a Certified Copy of My Marriage Certificate?

To get a certified copy of a marriage certificate in California, the interested individual must first find out the county where the marriage occurred. Then, they may proceed to contact the county clerk or court recorder’s office where the marriage occurred with the name, year, and any other vital information on the certificate. The costs, procedures, and prerequisites for acquiring these certificates may differ depending on the county in which the marriage happened.

Individuals can also retrieve public marriage certificates by contacting the Vital Records Department of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), as they do not keep records of confidential marriage certificates. The Vital Records Department of the CDPH keeps records of marriages that happened between 1905 to 1999 and from 2009 to 2020 and does not supply certified copies of certificates from 2000 to 2008, and 2021 to 2022. Interested persons seeking marriage certificates that fall within these periods will need to contact the county clerk or recorder's office to obtain them.

In the State of California, two kinds of certified certificates are issued; authorized and informational. Authorized copies of certificates ( which can be used as means of identification) can only be acquired by the individual referred to on the certificate, parents of the individual, and other individuals permitted by law. Every other requestor will be issued informational copies of the certificate.

To obtain a certified copy of the marriage certificate, the interested person must submit a completed application form, a notarized sworn statement( if requesting an authorized copy), and a processing fee ( payable by check or money order ) of $17.00 to the vital records department. It is important to note that the fees charged for obtaining certified copies of the marriage certificate are nonrefundable because if a marriage record is not found, a "Certificate of No Record" will be issued to the individual. Requestors can request a copy of the certificate either in person or by mail. The individual requesting the certificate must put the required documents in a self-addressed stamped envelope and mail or submit them physically to:

California Department of Public Health Vital Records
1501 Capitol Avenue, MS 5103
P.O. Box 997410
Sacramento, CA 95899-7410
Phone: (916) 445-2684

The California Family History Library is also another option through which individuals can retrieve their marriage certificates in California. The library provides access to marriage indexes for specified dates that can help a person request marriage certificates from the California Center for Health Statistics and Informatics and different county offices across the state. Interested individuals can contact the library administration for further details.

Can I Find My Marriage Certificate Online in California?

Interested persons can find and access copies of their marriage certificates online in California. Most county clerks, recorders' offices, and the California Department of Public Health Vital Records (CDPH-VR) do not permit online requests. So, individuals desiring to use online order services to obtain their marriage certificates can make use of self-reliant, third-party companies that electronically convey applications to CDPH-VR or the county vital records office for processing. Information seekers should note that the online assistance offered by these independent companies may accrue extra charges in addition to the certified copy fee of $17.00, and these charges may differ with each company.

To make use of the online platforms, the interested party will need to supply some information, such as the name of the persons on the certificate as well as the location and date of the marriage if known. Requestors can also ease the search process by inputting the marriage certificate number, license number, and issuing date if available.

How to Get a New Marriage Certificate in California

The individual interested in obtaining a new marriage certificate must ensure that he or she submitted the issued marriage license at most ten days after the marriage was conducted to the appropriate county recorder or clerk's office for proper documentation.

Marriage certificates in California are issued by the County Recorder’s Office or County Clerk's office in the county where the marriage license was filed, depending on the type of marriage conducted. The California Vital Records Office (CDPH-VR) also issues only public marriage certificates for marriages that took place between 1905-2000 or 2009 to 2020. To apply for a new marriage certificate through the county recorder’s or clerk's office, the interested individual must contact the appropriate office responsible for issuing the certificate and make requests according to the specified procedures. It is important to note that applying for a marriage certificate through the county recorder's or clerk's offices are most times often faster than applying through the CDPH-VR. The processing time required for obtaining marriage certificates from the CDPH-VR is available on their website.

To apply for a marriage certificate through CDPH-VR, the requestor will be required to fill out an application form, attach the $17.00 fee required as a check or money order, and provide a notarized sworn statement and a copy of the requesting person's valid identification card. The application form to be submitted must contain the following information:

  • The name of both parties involved in the marriage as it is written on the issued license
  • The date or year the marriage occurred
  • The county or address where the marriage took place
  • The birth date of the married persons (and accompanying birth certificate if necessary)
  • The age of both married individuals at the time the marriage was concluded

The application requirements can be submitted in person or mailed to:

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

How Do I Verify a Marriage Certificate in California?

To verify a marriage certificate in California, an individual can query the county clerk or recorder's office in the county where the marriage took place. Another available option is to send a request either in person or via mail to the CDPH vital records office (if the certificate is public) with either the name on the certificate or the year of the marriage and allow the staff to carry out the verification process. The individual seeking to verify a marriage certificate should note that there may be charges attached to verify the certificate as determined by the county or state.