How to Get a Divorce Certificate

How to Get a Divorce Certificate

A divorce certificate, also called a certificate of divorce, is a simple document that shows that a marriage has been ended. Many people wonder where to get a divorce certificate, and we can explain that for you here. The process is really quite simple, because a divorce certificate is a simple document with minimal information. 

Divorce certificate sample

Divorce certificates look different in different states and even in different local records offices. A divorce certificate will usually show the county and docket number of the divorce case.  Then it will usually show each spouse’s location of residence and perhaps their address.

Sometimes the certificate will contain information about the marriage. For example, it might say where the marriage was granted, how long it was in effect, and who moved to terminate the marriage. Sometimes additional information like the parents or children of the couple are included.

Not a divorce decree

Sometimes people confuse a divorce certificate with a divorce decree.  A divorce decree is the formal document that a court issues to grant a divorce.

The decree will end the marriage and usually also address issues like child support and property division.  This may include pages and pages of detailed financial records dividing up a couple’s property. It may also include a detailed schedule for sharing custody of the couple’s children.  

It may include findings of fact from the case, such as who was at fault or what happened. Divorce decrees are not as easily accessible to the public, so you may not be able to get a copy of somebody else’s divorce decree.

Not a petition for divorce

The legal divorce process starts with a petition for divorce.

This is essentially a civil complaint, meaning that one spouse is asking the court to begin a proceeding against the other spouse. In some states, couples can file jointly meaning that they both agree to end the marriage.These cases have far less in the way of records. 

A contested divorce may have months worth of filings from each party plus all sorts of evidence entered into a permanent record. Getting an entire court record can be difficult. Archiving processes vary widely between courts, and the details from a divorce case might be sealed or even discarded completely.  Sometimes the certificate of divorce is all you will be able to find.

How to get divorce certificate

Today, there are lots of services that will collect a divorce certificate.

State and National Archives keep centuries worth of birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates.  Private services like Ancestry collect divorce certificates and make them widely available as well.  Sometimes when you are wondering how to get a copy of a divorce certificate, you are actually looking for a certified copy. 

These may be needed to obtain credit or get out of a debt incurred by your ex-spouse.  Various state records offices make these available to the public, but they have widely chosen to utilize private services like  VitalChek.  These services make divorce certificates easily to obtain at a reasonable cost.

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