May 30, 2023


Marriage and divorce records are legal documents that provide information on people’s marital status and history. They include details about when and where a person got married or divorced, the identities of their spouse(s), and any relevant legal proceedings related to their marriage or divorce.

These records play a crucial role in documenting relationships, protecting legal rights, and providing valuable historical data for research. As such, they are an essential resource for genealogical researchers, historians, legal professionals, and anyone else interested in learning about the personal and social aspects of marriage and divorce.


1. What are Marriage and Divorce Records?

Marriage and divorce records are important legal documents that detail the specifics of a marriage or divorce. These official records provide evidence of a marriage or divorce and are necessary for legal, genealogical, and personal purposes. Marriage records typically include the full names of both parties, the date and location of the ceremony, and the officiant’s name.

Divorce records contain similar information, including the date of the divorce, the names of both parties, and the grounds for divorce. Both marriage and divorce records can also include additional details such as the ages and birthplaces of the parties, the occupation of each spouse, and the names of any witnesses present at the ceremony.

In legal contexts, marriage and divorce records are critical pieces of evidence used to establish legal status, inheritance, and property rights. They may be required for various legal proceedings, including name changes, adoptions, and immigration. For genealogical researchers, marriage and divorce records can provide valuable information on past generations, including the names, ages, and birthplaces of ancestors.

Researchers can also use these records to trace family history, uncover previously unknown relatives, and connect with distant relatives. Finally, marriage and divorce records can serve personal purposes, such as providing proof of an individual’s marital status or facilitating the process of obtaining a passport or driver’s license.

Importance of Marriage and Divorce Record

1. Marriage Records

Marriage records are essential documents that serve as proof of marriage between two individuals. Marriage records are typically issued by the state or county where the marriage took place. These records can be useful for a variety of purposes, including legal proceedings, genealogical research, and personal identification. Marriage records often include the full names of both parties, the date and location of the marriage, and the name of the officiating authority. Some marriage records may also include information about the witnesses to the marriage, the couple’s ages, and the couple’s parents.

It is important to note that marriage records are generally considered public records and are available to anyone who requests them. However, some states may have restrictions on who can access marriage records or how much information can be released. Overall, marriage records are a valuable resource for anyone researching their family history or navigating legal proceedings related to marriage.

2. Divorce Records

Divorce records hold crucial information for individuals seeking to dissolve their marriages or verify their marital status. They are legal documents that record the details of a divorce, including the terms of the separation and any applicable settlements or agreements. Lawyers, genealogists, and individuals seeking to remarry often rely on these records to confirm the end of a marriage and uncover pertinent details, such as property distribution, child custody, and alimony arrangements.

Divorce decrees are the primary type of divorce record. They are final judgments issued by a court, marking the legal end of a marriage. Divorce decrees can contain information about the grounds for the separation, property division, financial arrangements, and child custody and support. Conversely, divorce certificates serve as proof that a divorce has taken place, but do not contain as much detail as divorce decrees do.

In addition to divorce decrees and certificates, divorce settlement agreements also represent an important aspect of divorce records. Divorce settlement agreements, also known as property and marital settlement agreements, are legal documents that outline the terms and conditions of a divorce settlement. These agreements cover details such as marital property distribution, child custody arrangements, and support payments. Divorce settlement agreements can also address any tax aspects of the divorce settlement arrangement.

Access to divorce records can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the age of the records. Some states make divorce records readily available to the public, while others may only allow access to certain individuals, such as the divorced parties, their legal representatives, or government officials. Additionally, some jurisdictions have a waiting period before making divorce records available, which can range from several days to several years.

Accessing Marriage and Divorce Records

1. Public Records

Public records pertaining to marriage and divorce are generally accessible to the public, and they can provide a great deal of information about a person’s marital status and history. These records are often held by state or county governments and can be accessed in person, by mail, or online. The information included in public marriage and divorce records can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the date of the record, but it typically includes the names of the parties involved, the date and location of the marriage or divorce, and any relevant legal documents or rulings.

Additionally, these records may also contain information about the couple’s parents, witnesses, and other personal details. Many people use marriage and divorce records for genealogical research, legal purposes, and personal background checks. However, it’s important to note that not all public records are available to the general public. Some records may be restricted for privacy or security reasons, or they may only be accessible with a court order. It’s always a good idea to check the specific rules and regulations regarding public record access in your state or county before attempting to obtain any records.

2. Restricted Records

Restricted records are those that are not readily available to the public. These records may include sensitive personal information, such as the names of individuals involved in divorce proceedings, or records that could potentially harm the privacy or safety of those involved in the case. They may also include records that are subject to confidentiality agreements, such as those relating to child custody or adoption. Access to restricted records is typically limited to specific individuals, such as the parties involved in the case, their attorneys, or authorized government officials.

Obtaining access to restricted records can be a challenging process and may require a court order. Court orders may be granted by a judge if there is a compelling reason to access the records. One common reason for seeking a court order is to obtain information related to an ongoing legal proceeding, such as a divorce or child custody dispute.

To obtain a court order, individuals must typically submit a written request to the court. This request should detail the specific information that the individual is seeking, as well as the reasons they believe the information is necessary. The request must also include any relevant legal arguments or precedents that support the request.

Once the court has received the request, it will review it to determine whether the request is valid and whether there is a compelling reason to grant access to the records. The court may request additional information or documentation from the individual seeking access, and may hold a hearing to consider the matter.

In summary, accessing restricted records can be a complex process that requires a compelling reason and may require a court order. Individuals seeking access to these records should be prepared to provide detailed information and legal arguments to support their request, and should be prepared to potentially undergo a hearing to make their case.

How to Obtain Marriage and Divorce Records

1. Online

Online marriage and divorce records are becoming more accessible as the internet becomes ubiquitous. State and county governments now provide websites where people can easily access their marriage and divorce records. These websites usually provide basic information such as the names of the married parties, date and location of the marriage, and the names and birthdates of their children.

Some sites also offer more detailed information such as the divorcing couple’s financial and property records. The availability of online marriage and divorce records can be a useful tool when someone needs to prove their marital status, obtain a legal separation, or someone searching for information for genealogical purposes.

Most states require a fee to access online marriage and divorce records. The fees vary among states and can range from a few dollars to a more substantial sum depending on the purpose of the search. Additionally, it could take several days or even weeks to receive the requested record since each state has different processing times and procedures. When searching for online marriage and divorce records, it’s essential to ensure that the website is reputable and that they protect the privacy of their users.

One of the primary benefits of searching for marriage and divorce records online is the convenience it provides. People can search and request records from the comfort of their own homes without having to visit the courthouse. The process is straightforward, and people can obtain the information they need much faster than traditional methods. Additionally, the internet makes it easier to search for records across multiple states, which is especially useful for those who have moved to different states over the years.

Another benefit of online marriage and divorce records is that they allow individuals to obtain public records quickly and more efficiently. This is particularly useful for people who require these records for immigration or citizenship purposes. Online records are also useful for legal professionals searching for information about marital and family history in divorce and custody cases. The ability to access these records online can help attorneys build stronger cases by providing them with the necessary information they need to represent their clients competently.

In conclusion, online marriage and divorce records provide a convenient way for individuals to obtain information about their marital status and history quickly. While different states have varying fees and processing times, online records are generally more accessible than traditional methods. With the increasing availability and access to these records, individuals can now access the information they need for legal and personal use easily.

2. In Person

In person, obtaining marriage or divorce records can be a good option for those who prefer face-to-face interactions or do not trust online services. Visit the vital records office in the county where the event occurred and present a valid ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, to request the record. Depending on the state, you may need to provide additional information such as the full names of the spouses, the date of the event, and the reason for obtaining the record. Some states also require that you have a direct relationship to one of the parties involved or a legal reason for accessing the record.

In-person requests typically have the shortest processing times, and you may receive a copy of the record the same day you request it. However, keep in mind that some offices have limited hours or require appointments, so be sure to check ahead of time. Additionally, fees and payment methods may vary by state and office, so make sure to bring cash or a credit/debit card. Overall, in-person requests provide an opportunity to obtain records quickly and with the added security of face-to-face interactions.

3. By Mail

In this subsection, we will look at how to obtain marriage and divorce records by mail. First, it is essential to note that the process for obtaining vital records by mail varies from state to state. Therefore, it is crucial to research and understand the specific requirements and procedures of the state where the record is filed. To start, one needs to obtain and complete the appropriate form required by the state’s vital records office. The form can be downloaded from the state’s website or requested by mail.

Along with the completed form, the applicant is required to provide a valid government-issued photo identification to prove identity. Some states require additional documentation such as proof of relationship or proof of purpose for the request. It is highly recommended to include a self-addressed stamped envelope with the application to ensure quicker processing. Additionally, the applicant should also enclose a check or money order with the correct fee.

The processing time for mail-in requests may vary from state to state. Some states take up to 3 to 4 weeks to process the request, while others can take up to 12 weeks. Therefore, applicants should allow sufficient time for processing and delivery of the records. In cases where the requested record cannot be found, the applicant’s fee is usually not refunded.

It is important to note that obtaining vital records by mail may not be the best option in some instances, especially if the applicant needs the record urgently. Third-party providers can offer expedited services for an additional fee. However, one should exercise caution when using third-party providers. It is advisable to confirm their legitimacy before engaging in their services.

In conclusion, obtaining marriage and divorce records by mail may be a good option for those who prefer to have a physical copy of the documents. While the process may be slower than obtaining records in person or online, it is still a viable option for those who cannot access online services or visit in person. Applicants must ensure that they follow the state’s requirements and procedures to avoid delays or rejection of their requests.

4. Through a Third-Party Provider

Using a third-party provider is another way to obtain marriage and divorce records. These providers offer search services that can retrieve the desired record from their vast database, which contains millions of records. The third-party providers offer convenience as they can access many states’ vital records.

However, using a third-party provider comes with fees charged for the services rendered. The cost varies from one provider to the other and may depend on the complexity, extent of the search, and the waiting time. Also, requests submitted through third-party providers may take longer to process than if submitted directly to the government agency.

It is essential to ensure that the third-party provider to be considered is reputable and reliable. Research proves that shows the provider’s effectiveness, customer reviews, and ratings can help to identify the best provider to use. The provider should have a website and provide clear indications of their services, the fees charged, how to request, and the duration to receive the records requested. Furthermore, the third-party provider must abide by the relevant regulations, laws, and ethical issues related to obtaining the records.

Using third-party providers can be advantageous for individuals who do not have easy access to online or in-person records. The providers can offer their services to people from remote locations, thus saving on travel and logistical expenses. The providers can also help individuals who might have difficulty in filing the requests on their own, such as those who have lost the relevant records’ information. However, it is essential to note that the third-party providers do not guarantee the records’ accuracy or completeness, which may be a disadvantage to some users.

Finally, it is vital to note that using third-party providers comes with the risk of privacy and security breaches. The providers may not be as secure and confidential as government agencies because they may not be obliged to follow the same stringent regulations to secure the data. Hence, it is essential to check the provider’s security measures and reputation before engaging them.

Marriage and Divorce Records FAQs

1. How do I request a copy of my marriage certificate?

You can request a copy of your marriage certificate from the vital records department in the state where you were married. You will need to provide identification and payment for the copy.

2. Can I access my divorce records online?

Yes, some states offer online access to divorce records through their official websites. However, the availability of online records varies by state and may require a fee.

3. How do I change my name on my marriage certificate?

You cannot change your name on your marriage certificate. However, you can legally change your name through a court order or by providing proof of a legal name change.

4. How can I find out if someone is divorced?

You can search public divorce records through the vital records department or court clerk’s office in the county or state where the divorce occurred. Some states may require a fee for accessing these records.

5. Can I get a copy of someone else’s marriage certificate?

You can only obtain a copy of someone else’s marriage certificate if you are a legal representative, an immediate family member, or have a court order. Otherwise, these records are confidential and not available to the general public.

6. How long does it take to process a divorce?

The length of time it takes to process a divorce varies by state and individual case. Factors that may affect the timeline include the complexity of the case, court availability, and any disagreements between the parties involved.

About the Author

As a native Washingtonian, Carlos Reyes’ journey in the real estate industry began more than 15 years ago when he started an online real estate company. Since then, he’s helped more than 700 individuals and families as a real estate broker achieve their real estate goals across Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Carlos now helps real estate agents grow their business by teaching business fundamentals, execution, and leadership.

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