There are many different ways to obtain a copy of divorce papers in California. These include visiting the California court that handled the divorce and requesting divorce certificates of record from the public health department. Divorce records are public record, which means anyone can access them.
Contact the California superior court where a divorce case was filed to get copies of divorce documents. You can get a Divorce Certificate of Record from the California Department of Public Health, but it only includes the names of the parties, the name of the court and the fact that the divorce was filed.
Certified Copy of Divorce Certificate of Record
In California, you can get a certificate of divorce record from the state Department of Health if the divorce you are interested in occurred between 1962 and June, 1984. If the divorce is outside of this time period, you cannot get divorce certificates here. Note that the divorce certificate of record available here is not a certified copy of the divorce judgment.
Rather, the document identifies the parties, the county where the divorce was filed and the court case number. Nor does it indicate whether the divorce was finalized.
This can also be a slow process. From the time you place and pay for the order by mail, it can be six months until you get the certificate of record. Be sure you include the fee or your application will be returned.
Certified Copy of Divorce Decrees in California
If you need a certified copy of an actual divorce decree or some other part of the divorce case record, you must go to the county superior court that granted the divorce. Exact procedures differ, but many courts require that you either show up in person or send your request in writing. For example, in San Mateo Superior Court, you can get a copy of a Final Judgment of Divorce or any other document in a divorce case, but you cannot do it online. You must visit the clerk's office or submit a request by mail to the court's Records Management office.
To obtain copies of the divorce papers, you need the case number, the names of both spouses and the approximate year the divorce was granted. If you write in for the documents, you must enclose the fee as well as a self-addressed stamped envelope. If you do not have the case number, the court website provides a link to conduct a search.
The Cost to Obtain Divorce Records
Fees vary depending on the court and the document requested. For example, a certified copy of a divorce decree can cost around $15 in San Mateo, or $25 if the file is elsewhere and they have bring it in for you. If you are asking for other parts of the divorce record, it could cost up to $40.
If you have not enclosed enough money to cover all the fees, the entire request will be returned to you and you will have to begin again. To avoid this, the court recommends that you make out a check containing the words "not to exceed" in an amount a bit higher than the fees required in case additional charges apply to your record request. The court will charge you only the correct amount when they cash the check.