If you need a copy of your divorce decree, navigating the labyrinth of your local court system can be time-consuming at best and frustrating at worst. Whether you need the paperwork to apply for benefits, complete an income tax audit, or change your name, it’s crucial to learn how to get divorce certificate access.
If you want to know how to get a copy of a divorce decree without having to take a number at the courthouse, let’s discuss how to get divorce papers from the comfort of your own home.
First, what is a divorce certificate?
When someone asks you for a copy of your divorce papers, there are three documents to which they could be referring:
The petition for a divorce hearing or the paperwork you filed at the courthouse to initiate the divorce processThe final divorce judgment or divorce decree, or the original copy of the judge’s orders to terminate your marriage or domestic partnership (among other conditions, e.g., stipulations for child support for divorced couples with children)The divorce certificate, which includes a collection of some of the information from both the petition paperwork and the final judgment
In most cases, the agency asking for a copy will want to see the divorce certificate or decree. It will include crucial information, like:
- Both spouses’ names and dates of birth
- The date of their marriage
- The divorce date
- Each party’s last known address
When you request a divorce certificate from your local courthouse or vital records office, you’re unlikely to receive the original certificate. Jurisdictions typically keep the original, hard copies on file and, when you need a copy, create a certified copy—a photocopy of the document stamped, signed, and dated by a clerk.
When do you need a divorce certificate?
There are many instances in which you may need a copy of your divorce certificate:
Changing your name – If you opt to change your last name back to the original, you’ll need to present verification of your divorce to a judge. Filing a new marriage license – Even if you were married and divorced in the same jurisdiction, the courthouse where you wish to file for a new marriage license will ask for a copy of your divorce certificate to prove that you’re legally single.Refinancing your home – If you were awarded your and your spouse’s primary residence in your divorce agreement, you’d have to complete a refinancing process to remove your spouse’s name from the deed and mortgage agreement. Your lender will likely require a copy of your divorce decree, but this could depend upon your state.Applying for Social Security benefits – In some cases, you may be entitled to the entirety or a portion of your divorced spouse’s Social Security payments. The Social Security Administration will require a copy of your divorce certificate (and likely other documents) to ascertain your eligibility.Completing IRS Tax Audits – In the United States, when you begin filing your income tax return as a single person again after your divorce is finalized, you’re liable—as always—to be audited by the Internal Revenue Service. If the IRS chooses to audit you, you’ll have to prove that your legal marital status is single since you’ll have filed as a married person at least once.
How do you get a divorce certificate?
The process for obtaining this court document varies based on your jurisdiction’s requirements. But, you can expect to encounter most (if not all) of the following steps to accomplish the task:
Arriving at your local courthouse or vital records office in person and standing in line
- Filling out and submitting a request form for a copy of a vital record
- Speaking with a clerk, who will either give you a copy right away or assign a pickup date
- Paying a fee for a certified copy (fees vary by state)
At most, the process could include two or more trips to the courthouse or vital records office, filling out physical forms, standing in line, and paying a fee. But, there’s a better way.
You can apply for certified copies of your Gov+ from the comfort of your home. Instead of wasting time applying in person, complete the request entirely online and get your documents in the mail quickly and safely.
Get a divorce certificate online
You might need a divorce certificate for various reasons—changing your name, refinancing your home, or completing other important tasks after your marriage ends. Thankfully, the days of standing in long lines and making repeated trips to the courthouse, public record office, or state office are over.
If you are about to remarry, you can also learn how to get a marriage certificate online. (Note: You might mistake marriage license vs certificate. The latter is the license for an officiator to wed two people.)