Divorced couples in California may wonder if their divorce records are available to the public. After all, many people value their privacy, and divorce is often a messy topic. The short answer is yes: divorce records are public in California. This means anyone can obtain a copy of your divorce decree.
This can be a nightmare for people who are conscious about privacy, especially for religious reasons. Religions like Catholicism, for example, forbid divorce and don’t allow remarriage after divorce if both spouses are still alive. It’s understandable that someone in this situation (or simply someone who doesn’t want to share this information) would want to protect their records. Let’s take a look at how someone can obtain divorce records in California and what steps you can take to seal your record.
How Can You Obtain Divorce Records in California?
The Judicial Council of California makes administrative records like birth, death, marriage, and divorce information available to the public. If you want to access divorce records, you can contact the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The CDPH has been maintaining copies of birth, death, and marriage records since 1905 and offers records on file from as early as that year, so they’ll be able to help.
The agency offers two types of divorce records:
- An authorized copy – This is a certified copy of the divorce record that someone could use for official purposes such as establishing identity. The registrant, their parent or legal guardian, child, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner are the only private citizens who can get an authorized copy. Law enforcement or a representative of a government agency conducting official business can also get one.
- An information copy – This contains the same information as an authorized copy, but the divorced parties can’t use it as a document to establish identity. It is available to anyone.
People can also obtain a record by contacting the superior court where the couple filed for divorce. This is where officials keep actual copies of the divorce record, and you must make a request with the court to get an official copy. Visit the California Courts website for a list list of all superior courts in California.
If you want to get a copy this way, contact the court in question and speak to a clerk. They will send you a request form to fill out and mail to the court. You should hear back in 60 days.
All of the above might be too much work, especially for the average casual curious person. The easiest alternative is to use the Public Libraries website. There, you can search for divorce records if you input the first and last names of one or two parties involved.
Can You Hide Divorce Records?
If you don’t want just anyone to be able to access your divorce records, you could go through the process of sealing them. But sealing divorce records in California is a complicated process that requires a court order.
To seal your divorce records, yyou must first file an application with the county court providing reasons that justify your request. The court will be more inclined to approve your request if the divorce records include sensitive personal information. This can include details about children and finances as well as criminal information like domestic abuse that should not be public.
If the court accepts the application, it will send a written order to the CDPH and your records will be sealed. The specific procedures for sealing public records vary from county to county. If you need more information, try contacting the superior court where you filed for divorce.
Alternatives to Divorce in California
There are other options if you don’t want to deal with having a public divorce record. Here are three alternatives to divorce:
- Annulment – A marriage can be annulled if you can prove fraud, force, unsound mind, prior existing marriage, incapacity, bigamy, incest, or underage marriage. If you qualify for an annulment, then you can erase your marriage and avoid having a divorce on record.
- Legal separation – Legally separating does not terminate a marriage, but it stops you and your spouse from remarrying. Legal separation is a convenient alternative to outright divorce; it’s often chosen by couples who don’t want to divorce for religious or practical reasons such as maintaining health insurance. And if you need to, you can still file for divorce at a later date.
- Summary dissolution – This is probably the easiest way to dissolve a marriage under California family law. It is only available to couples who have been married for less than five years, don’t have children together, and agree on the division of community property and debts.
Contact A People’s Choice if you want to get a divorce but are worried about having a public divorce record. Annulment, legal separation, or summary dissolution may be better options for you. Our legal document assistants can help explain these alternatives and guide you through every step of the process. Get started by calling 800-747-2780!