Differences Between Divorce Decrees and Divorce Certificates

By Anna Assad

A divorce certificate and divorce decree show some of the same information about the divorce, but the documents come from two different places and often serve different purposes. The state vital statistics bureau, commonly a part of the state health department, issues divorce certificates, whereas a decree is available from the court that granted the divorce.

Divorce Certificate

A divorce certificate usually names both spouses, as well as the date and place the divorce was granted -- but typically no other information. Divorce certificates serve as proof the couple is no longer married. State laws vary with regard to who, other than the spouses involved or their attorneys, is allowed to get a copy of a divorce certificate. A divorced person may use a certificate as evidence of the divorce for various legal purposes. For example, a divorced person may need a certificate for the state motor vehicle department if she wants to change her married name on her license.

Divorce Decree

A divorce decree has the same information the divorce certificate does and summarized information from the divorce judgment. This document is signed by the judge and part of the divorce case file. Decrees also state the basic facts of the divorce and the court case number. For example, if one spouse was awarded spousal support, the decree will state which spouse pays and how much. All the terms of the divorce, such as child custody and property division, are outlined in the decree, as well as other issues the parties agreed on or the judge decided. Only one of the spouses involved or their attorney may request a decree copy in most cases. A divorced person may need the decree to check the divorce terms or to file an action in court that relates to the decree, such as a petition for modification of the original spousal support amount.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Divorce Record

The divorce record is the case file from the divorce. A divorce record has all the papers that were filed during the divorce, including sworn statements from the spouses, financial documentation and the divorce decree. A divorce record is available at the court that granted the divorce and usually only available to one of the former spouses or their legal representation. A divorced person might need her divorce record if she's challenging one or more decisions or agreements made in the original divorce or for personal record-keeping.


State vital statistic bureaus and court systems have varying identification requirements for copies of divorce decrees or certificates. Acceptable forms of identification typically include state photo identification or a United States passport. Fees apply if you request copies of a divorce certificate, divorce decree or divorce record, but the cost varies by area. Some jurisdictions charge by the page. Certified copies with a court stamp often cost more than traditional photocopies.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Obtain a Divorce Date


Related articles

How to Get a Free Copy of Divorce Records

Whenever parties are involved in a divorce action, the clerk of court will create a permanent record of every document filed by the attorneys or parties that represented themselves. Thanks to the new wave in court technology, most record searches can be conducted online. However, in some instances a request will have to be conducted in person or via mail.

What Is a Temporary Divorce Certificate?

Some courts issue temporary divorce certificates -- which may be referred to as legal separation certificates -- when a couple has petitioned for divorce or legal separation but the divorce has not yet been finalized. You can use this certificate to prove that divorce proceedings have been initiated and may help provide documentation when changing your name, changing the name on bills or responding to debt collectors looking for your spouse. A temporary divorce certificate is not the same thing as a final divorce decree.

A Record of Divorce or Annulment in Michigan

The end of your marriage might seem like a private affair to you, but in the eyes of the state of Michigan, divorce and annulment are matters of public record as long as the file was not sealed by the court. Even the merely curious are entitled to obtain verification of these important changes in legal status and to request a certified document evidencing them. Given the fees involved, most requests for divorce records are likely to come from those with legitimate reasons for needing to know.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What Is an Exemplification of Divorce?

An exemplification is an official transcript or copy of a public document that certifies it is a true copy of the ...

How to Get a Copy of a Divorce Online in New Jersey

Certified divorce documents are often needed for various financial transactions and other legal matters. The New Jersey ...

How to Get Divorce Records From Conroe Texas Online

The city of Conroe, Texas is located in Montgomery County. There are two types of divorce records for divorce ...

How to Get Divorce Copies From Oregon

It may be necessary to obtain a copy of your divorce paperwork for several reasons; you might need it to remarry or ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED