Like most court decrees, divorces in California are a matter of public record. To get access to divorce records in California, contact the court clerk's office at the county superior court where the divorce was filed. Depending on the county, you may be able to visit the clerk's office to view a divorce decree at no charge. If you want a copy of the decree, there is a 50-cent charge. Copies are available by requesting them in person, by mail or in some cases, online. It can take up to a month to get the copy of the decree.
Informational Vs. Certified Divorce Records
While anyone can get an informational copy of a divorce decree, certified divorce decrees are usually required only by the former spouses or family members. If you are getting a certified copy of your own divorce record, the fee is around $15 to $25, depending on the county. A certified copy of a divorce judgment requires an additional fee, normally $15.
Getting Divorce Records by Mail or in Person
Locate the superior court in the county where the divorce was filed. Go to that court's website or visit the court clerk's office to get a Copy Request form. If you want a copy for yourself, either informational or certified, you can go in person to the court clerk's office to submit the request or send the request by mail.
To request a copy by mail, send a check payable to the "Clerk of the Court." If you don't know how much it will cost, write under the amount line on the check the words "not to exceed $30.00." The court clerk can then enter the correct fee amount. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope that is large enough to hold the divorce certificate.
In your request, include the divorced couple's full names, the case number and explain that you are requesting a copy of a divorce certificate. Indicate whether or not you need a certified copy. If you don't have the case number, include the approximate date the divorce was filed. You should expect an additional fee if the court clerk's office has to find the case number for you.
Getting Divorce Records Online
An increasing number of public records are available online, including divorce decrees. In California, for example, the Los Angeles County Superior Court has digitized its divorce records, and they can be ordered online. To access the online records, visit LACourt.org and search for the case number. Create an account and pay the 50-cent fee for each copy you request and the $15 certification fee by credit card. If you don't know the case number, you can research it using a party name search for an additional $1.
Using Public Health Records
In addition to getting divorce records from the county superior court, you can also get divorce certificates of record from the California Department of Public Health, provided the divorce was filed between 1962 and June 1984. Note that these are not divorce decrees and the documents cannot be certified. A certificate of record includes the names of the divorced, the county where the divorce was filed and the court case number. A certificate of record does not indicate whether the divorce was ever finalized in court. Expect the processing time to be more than six months.