- What's included in a divorce decree?
- Where can you get a divorce in California?
- Decree vs. certificate
If you need to obtain a copy of your divorce decree in California, you’ll visit the superior court in the county where you filed for divorce.
At the end of your divorce, the judge ends your marriage and makes rulings about your children, your estate, and more. Every detail is recorded, and both parties sign it. The judge also signs the document and affixes formal seals and stamps. This is your official divorce decree. Courts give both parties official copies of the divorce decree. But some people lose these important documents later on.
Divorce decrees are a matter of public record, and anyone can ask for a copy. It’s relatively easy to obtain in the county where you originally filed for divorce.
Watch: How to Get a Divorce in California
What's included in a divorce decree?
Think of divorce decrees as official instructions to couples at the end of their marriage. Each item in the document is enforceable by law, and the more detailed the document, the better couples can abide by the rules and stay out of trouble.
While your divorce decree includes the official date of your divorce, so much more is listed, including these things:
- Child custody arrangements
- Child visitation schedules
- Child support amounts
- Spousal support payments
- Marital property and debt divisions
Many of these details are sensitive, but divorce records are public in California. Unless the court restricts access, the public can access them. This means the details won’t be private for most people.
Where can you get a divorce decree in California?
Californians may be accustomed to heading to vital records offices for official decrees. Divorces work a little differently. No vital records office can give you a divorce decree. Instead, you must work within California's legal system.
Superior courts (also called trial courts) can give you divorce decrees. There are 58 of these courts, and you must find the one that corresponds to the county that issued your divorce. Do that research here.
Every court works a little differently. While some allow mail-in requests, others do not. Do your research so you'll know just what to expect.
Most courts have forms to fill out for divorce decree copies. You're typically asked for the following:
- The formal names of both parties
- The year of the divorce
- The court case number
If you don't know the case number, someone must scour the records and find that information for you. Typically, this process takes a little longer, and you're charged for that research time.
Fees for these documents can vary. In Santa Clara, for example, you'll pay the following fees:
- $15 for research if you don't know the case number
- Between $15 and $40 for certification, depending on the type of divorce
- A copy fee per page of between $0.05 and $1, depending on whether the originals are printed singly or double-sided
You must pay these fees in advance, and if the organization mails you the forms, you might be asked to pay postage, too.
Divorce decree vs. divorce certificate: What's the difference?
A divorce decree and a divorce certificate both contain details about the end of your marriage. But a divorce certificate is less detailed than a divorce decree.
A divorce certificate contains little more than the following:
- The names of both spouses
- The name of the judge
- The name and location of the court
- The date of the divorce
What's after divorce?
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ReferencesMail-In Request for Copies of Divorce Records. California Department of Public Health.
Superior Courts. Judicial Branch of California.
Family Records Copy Request Form. (October 2020). Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara.
Divorce Index. Judicial Branch of California.
The Divorce Process: A Step By Step Guide. (December 2022). Forbes.