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How to Find California Marriage Records

Marriage is often seen as a vow that two people make to share their lives with one another, but it also serves as a legal state contract that establishes the rights and obligations between them, their children, and other family members. In California, these records are considered public records because of the legal consequences they may have on these people regarding the aforementioned rights and obligations. Because of their status as public records, it may be possible to access marriage licenses and certificates as uninvolved parties, but not guaranteed. There are different ways that governmental bodies legally record marriages, and understanding the difference between these ways can assist a requesting party when trying to access and use them.

Are California Marriage Records Public?

While California Marriage Records are public, they represent some of the most difficult records to obtain due to the personal nature of the information within. Government organizations often offer marriage verification letters rather than the original marriage records because marriage records must remain intact and unchanged with regard to the people involved in the marriage. If changes need to be made, these records are critical to that procedure.

Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.

Where to Find Free California Marriage Records

For members of the public, it is not possible to gain access to marriage records of any kind for free. However, one can obtain public marriage licenses or certificates with a small fee through the county clerk's office in the county where the marriage occurred. These records will not be state verified, as verification may be costly, but they are a statement that the marriage has been finalized and can serve many purposes. To contact the County Recorder’s Office in the specific county where the marriage took place, visit the California State Association of Counties Website for a list of counties and their contact information.

It may be necessary to note that marriage verifications are not always stand-ins for marriage licenses and certificates, and may not be able to serve the same purpose.

How Do I Get My Marriage Certificate in California?

Public marriage certificates are maintained by the County Recorder’s Office in the county where the marriage license was purchased. The California Department of Public Health Vital Records Office (CDPH-VR) only maintains public marriage records that happened in the years of 1905-2000 or 2008 to present day. Typically, this record will note that a marriage took place, where it took place, and the names of the involved parties. To apply for a marriage record through the county recorder’s office, contact the specific office and they should be able to guide any requesting parties through the process. Applying through the county recorder offices can often render faster results than applying through the CDPH-VR. To apply for a marriage record through CDPH-VR, it is necessary to fill out the application form along with all fees required and a valid photocopy of the requesting artys identification. There is a $15.00 copy fee for each certificate. Check or money order should be made payable to CDPH Vital Records. For each additional request, it is necessary to fill out another application. On the application form, the following information must be known:

  • The name of the party as it appears on the licence
  • The date or date range of the marriage
  • The city or county where the marriage occurred
  • Both of the spouses dates of birth
  • The age of both of the spouses when the marriage was finalized

Mail this application to:

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

What are California Marriage Records?

A California marriage record is a complete record consisting of marriage certificates as well as marriage licenses. Each of these types of records hold different degrees of standing and verification that a marriage has taken place. There are different types of records, utilized for different processes. Most have similar information, but essentially they all state the same things: that a legal union of two people took place in the eyes of the California state government.

Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

What are California Marriage Licenses?

In order to get married in California, parties must obtain what is called a Marriage License. There are two kinds of marriage licenses in california: Public or Confidential. Both of these documents require information and agreements from both parties, but the requirements differ slightly. The necessary information is quite general: names of both parties, date of upcoming marriage, and a marriage statement. A Marriage licence is also a sort of contract, which states what rights and obligations both parties must meet and abide by. Certain requirements for accessing a marriage license in California are:

  • The couple that is to be married must appear in-person
  • The couple must be at minimum 18 years of age
  • The couple must report their social security numbers
  • Both of the individuals entering into the marriage must have a valid government photo ID. This includes a state driver’s license, a state ID, passport, military ID cards, and any visas that either party may have in light of a state of ID.

Engaged parties do not have to be residents of California to apply for a marriage license within the state, and the marriage license can be obtained from any county, regardless of where the couple decided to be married in the state. In a public marriage, there must be at least two witnesses. For a confidential marriage, no witnesses are required, however, the parties must sign a document attesting to the fact that they have lived together before the license is issued. Confidential records are not available for viewing or copying by anyone but the two spouses who were married.

How to Change Your Name After Marriage in California

A person that wants to change their name after marriage in California must follow specific steps. Parties must first apply for a marriage license, which is the official document that signifies a name change and is required when changing federal documents. Couples in California can send license applications to the county clerk before getting married and pay $35 to $110, depending on the county.

A person that is already married will need to get a certified copy of their marriage license before changing their name after marriage. Certified copies are also available at the county clerk's office and usually cost $15 per copy. Once the person planning a name change after marriage gets their certificate, they must first submit an application for a new social security card to the Social Security Administration (SSA). They must download and complete the application for a new Social Security card and attach the following:

  • Certified copy of marriage license
  • Photo identification (driver's license, state identification card, or passport)

Applicants can submit completed packages to their local SSA office in person or by mail. Processing might take 2-3 weeks. Upon getting a new social security card, the person changing their name after marriage can visit their local DMV to get a new driver's license. The applicant must present a copy of their marriage certificate and their current driver's license. By the end of their visit, parties will have a new driver's license with their new name printed on it.

California Public Marriage Licenses

A Public Marriage license is usually what a couple will request when they wish to have a traditional ceremony. These can be attained by any county recorder's office with the correct information and identification. There is no appointment necessary in obtaining a marriage license, but a Marriage License Application (usually found online) must have been completed at least two weeks before the visit to the county clerk. Marriage licenses can be issued in between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays.

A public marriage license is valid for 90 days before expiration, and both parties must not be currently married. The fee for a public marriage in California is $83.00, and a certified pre-paid copy can be issued immediately for $15.00 more. To have this certified copy, the fee must be pre-paid.The fee can be paid in the form of cash, check, money order, or debit or credit card (these require a processing fee of $2.50).

California Confidential Marriage Licenses

A confidential marriage in California not considered public record. The requesting parties must sign an affidavit agreeing that they have been living together as a couple prior to applying for a confidential marriage license. They must also be 18 years of age or older, and be married in the county where the license was obtained. No witnesses are required for this ceremony, and no ceremony is required either. The fee for a confidential marriage license is $89.00, and $15.00 more for every extra copy. The forms of payment are similar to that of a public marriage license. If someone is requesting a copy of these records and they are not one of the spouses, they must have a court order.

What are California Marriage Certificates?

California Marriage Certificates are documents given to couples after they have gotten married. They are not licenses, as they act as proof of marriage rather than approval for marriage.

How Do I Obtain a Copy of My Marriage Certificate in California

To obtain one’s own marriage certificate, visit the county clerk or court recorder’s office in the county where the marriage happened. Depending on the county of the marriage, fees and requirements for obtaining these records as one of the spouses may vary.