How to Get a Certified Copy of Divorce Decree

By Teo Spengler - Updated April 05, 2017

The rules for how to get a certified copy of a divorce decree vary among states. Generally, you apply to the court clerk in the county in which the divorce was granted, establish your connection to the divorce and pay a fee.

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What Is a Certified Copy of a Divorce Decree?

A certified copy of a divorce decree is a copy made by an officer of the court where the original document is stored. It is certified by the officer to be a true copy and is often stamped with the embossed seal of the court or state.

A certified divorce decree may be necessary for legal matters when proof is required of a final divorce. For example, you may need a certified copy of a divorce decree to remarry or to make a claim for Social Security as a former spouse.

Who Can Get a Certified Copy of a Divorce Decree?

Although the fact of a divorce is a public record, many states treat the details of a divorce as private. California's practice is fairly typical. It offers two types of certified copies of divorces, authorized copies and informational copies.

Authorized copies contain the actual divorce decree, but these are available only to the individuals named in the decree, the parents of the individual named, and certain other individuals the law recognizes as entitled to the information. Other people can obtain only informational copies that certify the fact of a final divorce.

How to Get a Certified Copy of Divorce Decree?

In many states, divorce decrees are available only from the courts that granted the decrees. Go to the clerk of the family court in the county in which you were divorced. Take the divorce case number. Show picture identification and request a certified copy.

If you don't know the case number, you can try to look it up or pay the court a small fee to do it for you. Expect to pay for the copy and pay an extra fee for certification. Fees are not standardized and vary among states and courts. Likewise, if you order the information, your timeframe for getting the decree varies among courts and states.

You may be able to get a certified copy of your divorce decree from your divorce attorney. It's certainly worth a telephone call to her office to see is she has one or can get one for you.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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