Lost Your Divorce Papers? Here’s What to Do

Divorces are rough, and it’s not always easy to keep track of important documents during difficult times. The good news is that a divorce certificate is considered a vital record that can easily be retrieved from your state office. If you’ve lost your divorce papers, here’s what you can do to get an official copy.

See: How To Prevent Your Divorce From Ruining Your Credit
Find: How To Maximize Social Security If You’re Divorced

Divorce Certificate Vs. Divorce Decree

According to state.gov, a divorce certificate is issued by a state vital records office and shows that a divorce occurred but does not have all the same information as a divorce decree. You can save time, and money, by determining which document you need before you request a copy from an official state office. 

Divorce Decree

Divorce decrees are official documents from the court that grant the termination of a marriage and include specific details of the marriage and divorce. 

In order to get a copy of a divorce decree, you will need to contact the county clerk’s office or “clerk of the court” for the county or city where the divorce occurred. 

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The decree includes the court-assigned file or case number as the official ruling in your divorce case. These documents are typically more involved than divorce certificates. Divorce decrees contain information about your case such as spousal support, child support, custody, visitation, property division and other information that provides details of the court decision.

These can be needed if an outside party needs to see evidence of your divorce for any of the reasons listed above. They can be provided with either a plain copy or a certified copy of your divorce decree. A certified copy is usually requested to confirm that the copy is stamped by the court, typically with a fee paid as well. 

Some reasons why you might need a divorce decree include needing to show proof of divorce by court order in order to obtain a new marriage license and custodial issues.                                                                                                                                       

Divorce Certificate

Divorce certificates are much simpler documents, which typically only include the names of both parties, the date of the divorce and the location/county of the divorce. A divorce certificate can be accessed from your state’s vital records office. You can see how to contact your local vital records office by clicking here.

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Overseas Divorce

If the divorce occurred in another country and you live in the United States, you will need to contact that specific country’s embassy or nearest consulate. You will need to follow their directions on how to receive a divorce decree or certificate.

In the United States, you are not required to register a foreign divorce decree at an embassy.

See: Divorced in Retirement? 20 Ways To Maintain Your Financial Independence
Find: All the Expenses You Never Considered When Getting a Divorce

If at any time you wish to seal your divorce court record, whether to protect minors and financials or redact false allegations made by your former spouse, you will need to return to court to make the formal request, according to Divorce.net.

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About the Author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience with concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking, and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo. 

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