There are many situations in which you may need a copy of your divorce decree. Some are as simple as providing proof of divorce, while others are more complicated and involve taking an ex-spouse back to court for violation of the terms of your divorce decree.

Regardless of your need for your decree, it is essential to know how to procure that decree in California and be aware of what to expect depending on which agency you ask for help. The following is a brief explanation of the difference between a divorce decree and a divorce certificate in California and where you can find these documents in the state.

What is a Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is a legally binding document issued by the court that formally ends a marriage. It contains all of the information available regarding a divorce case, including orders or agreements as to:

A divorce decree is a final, enforceable order that the former spouses must follow. It resolves all of the issues that were part of the divorce.

What is the Difference Between a Divorce Decree and a Divorce Certificate?

California issues a divorce certificate for record-keeping purposes. It is not a court document. A divorce certificate includes the parties’ names along with the date and place of the divorce.

A divorce certificate does not include personal details, agreements, or orders of the court. Instead, it is a document much like a birth certificate or marriage certificate. A divorce certificate is generally accepted as proof of divorce.

Name changes on essential documents like a driver’s license or Social Security card may require a portion of the divorce decree to confirm authorization for a name change since that information is not included on a divorce certificate.

Where to Obtain a Copy of Your Divorce Decree

The most efficient way to obtain a copy of your divorce decree is to contact the California County Superior Court in which your divorce was granted. The clerk of court or records office at that location should be able to issue you a certified copy of your entire divorce decree and any related documents.

Most county courts require a written records request in person or by mail, although different offices vary. You will need the following information to submit your request:

  • The names of each party
  • The year of the divorce
  • The court case number

Case numbers can usually be found using the court’s online search or with the help of court personnel in person.

There are fees for both the copies of the documents and their certification. As procedures vary by county, it is best to contact the proper court in advance and request details for obtaining your divorce decree.

Where to Obtain a Copy of Your Divorce Certificate

Copies of divorce certificates are also available from the California County Superior Court in which your divorce was granted. As with a divorce decree, the clerk of court or records office should be able to assist you with your request.

Another option for divorces that occurred between 1962 and June 1984 is the California Department of Public Health. The CDPH only issues a divorce certificate. It takes approximately six months or longer to receive the divorce certificate.

Contact an Experienced Attorney in Los Angeles

If you would like to learn more about divorce in California or modifications of a divorce decree, the experienced Los Angeles divorce attorneys at Fernandez & Karney can help. Let our attorneys clarify any terms of your divorce decree or California’s divorce law for you.

At Fernandez & Karney, we have the knowledge and resources to handle divorce matters, no matter their complexity. Contact us in person or online today.