After all the emotions, arguments, court appearances and tears, the end of a marriage boils down to a single document: a certificate of dissolution. This is a useful document to have when you are asked to prove you are divorced or your marriage was annulled, whether for insurance, taxes or other purposes. In New York state, you obtain a certificate of dissolution of marriage at the Vital Records Office of the New York State Department of Health, but you do not necessarily have to go there to get it.
Do not confuse a certificate of dissolution of marriage with the divorce decree. The latter is the official judgment of divorce issued by the court at the conclusion of a divorce case. It contains all of the terms of the divorce, including child custody, visitation and support, as well as property and debt division. If you have lost your divorce decree, you need to visit the County Clerk's Office in the county where the divorce was issued and request another. On the other hand, a New York certificate of dissolution of marriage is a piece of paper containing basic information about the divorce, such as the names of the parties and date and place the divorce or annulment was granted. Certificates are available for divorces and annulments from 1963 forward.
The termination of a marriage is a private matter but also a public one; it ends the relationship between two spouses but also alters the rights and obligations of these ex-spouses toward third parties. Both interests are served by the rules regarding access to dissolution certifications in New York. Either of the former spouses are able to obtain the dissolution certificate, as well as any third party whom a court determines is entitled to proof that the marriage is over. A third party may have a legitimate need for this kind of proof, for example, when an action is brought by the recipient of a quit claim deed received from one of the former spouses.
To order a dissolution certificate, you must establish that you are one of the persons entitled to it. To prove you are one of the former spouses or person named in a court order, you must submit a copy of an identify card that bears your photo such as your driver license, state-issued identification card, passport or military identification document. Alternatively, you can provide utility or phone bills in your name with your listed address plus a letter sent to you at that address by a government agency within the last six months.
If you are in Menands, New York, where the Vital Records Customer Service Lobby is located, you can order the certificate by walking into the office at 800 North Pearl Street. The desk is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Pay the fee with check, cash or money order. You need the names of the divorced or annulled parties plus the date of the divorce or annulment. Regular requests are handled in about two weeks and the document is mailed to you. For a fee, you can ask for priority service and get the document the same day.
Order by Mail
You can also order the dissolution certificate by mail, Internet or telephone. A mail request is the cheapest alternative but the turnaround time is at least 10 weeks. To speed things up, you can pay another fee for priority service that gets you the certificate in 2 to 4 weeks. Copies of identity documents and a check or money order must be included with the mail request. Regular and priority requests must be sent to different addresses, so be sure you use the correct one for the service you want.
Order by Internet or Telephone
An Internet or phone request is automatically treated as a priority request and costs the same as priority mail service. Internet and phone requests must be addressed to VitalChek Network, Inc., and the company adds an extra service fee. You will need to fax or scan your identification document and provide it to the company before your order is complete.