Where to Get a Free Copy of a Divorce Decree?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Where to Get a Free Copy of a Divorce Decree?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A divorce is not considered final until a judge issues a final decree, also referred to as a divorce decree. This document represents the official outcome of a divorce action. Signed by the presiding judge, the decree generally lists the parties involved, as well as decisions regarding child custody and support, division of marital assets, and any other pertinent matters resulting from the divorce proceedings.

Businessman holding up a divorce decree

Both parties to the divorce would receive a certified copy. It is vital that you keep the decree in a safe place because various public agencies and private firms may require it to verify your marital status. However, if you do happen to lose the decree, there are a few ways to obtain an additional copy if you need one. If you are not a party to the divorce, obtaining a copy of the divorce decree may require additional paperwork.Court Clerk's Office

The civil court that had jurisdiction over your divorce proceedings keeps a copy of the divorce decree in its records, both electronically and in physical form. If you misplaced or lost your original divorce decree, the first place you should go to obtain a copy is the clerk's office. State law typically requires the court to keep all divorce decrees on file for a minimum period of time, usually seven or 10 years depending on the state you live in.

Before heading to the clerk's office, make sure you have a form of identification as well as your divorce case number. If you do not have the case number, the clerk may be able to search by party, date, attorney(s), or judge. If a third party is searching for a divorce decree, the clerk may require a notarized letter or signed affidavit from one of the parties granting permission to view or obtain a copy of the document.

Records Department

If it has been more than seven or 10 years and the court clerk's office no longer has a copy of the divorce decree, you can check the county records department—sometimes referred to as the department of vital records, office of vital statistics, or registrar. If the records department does not keep divorce decrees, contact your state department of records or registrar.

If you are not a party to the divorce, the records will not be available unless you can provide a signed and notarized document in the form of a letter, notice, or affidavit granting permission from one of the parties. Alternatively, if you have one of the parties present with you, you can more easily obtain the documentation.

Legal Counsel

If you are still unable to obtain a copy of the divorce decree from the clerk's office or the records department, try contacting the attorney who represented you in the divorce proceedings. Depending on how long ago the divorce was finalized, attorneys usually retain closed files for several years. If your own attorney does not have the divorce decree, you may ask your ex-spouse's attorney (with written permission from your ex-spouse) if they can assist.

As a last resort, you may be able to track down your divorce decree online. Various websites offer search engines and databases that may help you locate the decree. If you lose or misplace your divorce decree, do not panic. There is a good chance that you will be able to obtain a copy using one of the sources described above. And if you are a third party, you can still obtain a copy of it with some additional paperwork, such as a form signed by one of the parties and notarized.

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.

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