How to Obtain a Divorce Decree From California

By River Braun, J.D.

How to Obtain a Divorce Decree From California

By River Braun, J.D.

There are many situations in which an individual may need a copy of his or her divorce decree. You might need a copy to review the terms of the order because you believe your ex-spouse might be in violation of the divorce decree. You may need a copy of the decree to prove the divorce was finalized if some records still reflect that you're married. Whatever the case, it can be frustrating when you need proof of your divorce, but you cannot put your hands on your copy of the decree.

Divorce decree

Don't Contact the California Department of Health

Because some marriage records may be obtained from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), many individuals begin with the CDPH to obtain copies of divorce records. However, the CDPH only has records for divorces that occurred between 1962 and June 1984. The CDPH only issues a Certificate of Record, which has only the names of the parties, the county of the divorce, and the court case number. The certificate is not a certified copy, which is typically required. It also takes about six months or longer to receive the Certificate of Record.

In other words, you cannot get a copy of your divorce decree from the CDPH, so don't waste your time going this route even though you may be directed to do this by a friend, family member, or county office.

Contact the California County Superior Court that Issued the Divorce Decree

The quickest and easiest way for you to obtain a copy of your divorce decree is to contact the California County Superior Court in which your divorce was granted. You can obtain a certified copy of the entire divorce decree and other documents from the divorce file by visiting or contacting the clerk of court's office or the court's records management office.

The procedure for requesting a certified copy of your divorce decree may vary slightly from county to county. However, most offices require that you submit a written request, in person or by mail. You need the names of each party, the year of the divorce, and the court case number. If you do not have your case number, you can typically locate the case number by searching online through the court's website. Court personnel may also help you locate the case number if you appear in person.

You must also pay the fee for a certified copy of the divorce decree. The fee for a certified copy of a divorce decree varies, and you pay an additional charge if you request copies of other documents from your divorce file. If you mail your request to the court, you must ensure you have sufficient funds to cover all costs, and you must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the court to return the document to you.

Contacting the Court in Advance Typically Saves Time and Money

As discussed above, the process for requesting a copy of a divorce decree varies by county. Some counties may have an online process, and other counties may only accept requests in person.

Before you request a copy of your divorce decree, it is best to contact the Superior Court in the county of your divorce. Many of the courts have a website which provides detailed information about obtaining copies of family court documents.

A list of the superior courts in California can be found here. By clicking on the county name, you may also find additional links that can be very helpful as you begin your search for a copy of your divorce decree.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.