Just like birth certificates and marriage licenses, divorce decrees and certificates are vital records. Before you set out to obtain a copy of divorce papers, determine whether you want a copy of the divorce decree or a divorce certificate. The former, a court decree, terminates the marriage and includes specific terms regarding the divorce, such as custody determinations and property division. A divorce certificate simply states the names of the spouses and the official ending date of the marriage.
Getting the Decree or Certificate
You can usually obtain a divorce decree from the county clerk's office in the county in which the divorce was granted, although if your divorce occurred some time ago, it may be "archived" -- sent to a central state repository. To get a copy of a divorce certificate, you should contact the agency handling your state's vital records. For example, in Kansas, it's the state Department of Health and Environment. You'll need to provide identification, such as a driver's license or passport, along with information confirming your address, such as recent utility bills or letters from a government agency. Expect to pay a fee for the document. While either of the spouses can obtain copies of divorce papers, in some states, such as New York, anyone else must have a state court order.
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