Guide to California Marriage Records
Table of Contents
Your marriage record is more than a joyful document hanging above the mantle. It's a vital piece of proof that the government of California recognizes your union and that you're eligible for the many perks that go alongside it.
Aside from the financial benefits, you'll require your marriage records for post-wedding errands like changing your legal name, updating insurance policies, and getting a green card if necessary.
The process for obtaining marriage records varies between California counties. Depending on where you initially filed, you may face different fees, processing times, and document formats. Anyone from another state may also be confused about who to ask in the first place.
What Are California Marriage Records and How Are They Stored?
California marriage records are official documents proving your marital status. Certified printed copies are signed and sealed to verify their authenticity, so if you're in a position where you must convince another party that you're married, this is what you'll use.
Individual counties determine the degree of information displayed on a marriage record. However, primary fields must be included for a marriage record to do its job correctly. These sections are:
- Full names of spouses
- Signatures of witnesses
- Date of Ceremony
Additional information may be as detailed as dates of birth, addresses, occupation, and ethnicity. Counties requiring this type of information typically use marriage records in a different capacity than essential identification.
California marriage records can be found in the state's Vital Records Division and the county clerk's office that initially processed the license. However, availability through vital records is contingent on the marrying year since the state didn't store marriage records for the years 2000 through 2007, or 2023.
Records are also often moved from to the state archives for storage, so it's recommended to contact your county clerk's office for the most reliable results.
Most of the time, a marriage license refers to a permit that couples need to get married. They're distributed by the county and show that the couple meets all requirements for marriage. This license is given to the witnesses and officiant to sign before being returned to the clerk's office for processing.
After this round of processing, the marriage license acts as a marriage record. It's certified by the managing county and can be used in all official capacities. So, when requesting your marriage record, specify that it's for a marriage that's already occurred.
California Marriage Statistics
While California isn't obligated to report divorce statistics to the Centers for Disease Control, they still provide general marriage information. This is because the Federal government must manage the many country-wide benefits offered to married couples. Marriage statistics also serve as a strong indicator of how content a population is.
Individuals are interested in these stats for different reasons. Maybe you're wondering if now's the right time to get married. You can compare your current situation with the details of the average married person in your state to get a broad idea. Here are a few of the most relevant marriage facts about California:
- Marriage Rates: Between 1990 and 2020, California's marriage rates plummeted by more than 50 percent, currently at 3.2 marriages per 1000 people. It's speculated that the state's extremely high living costs cause people to hesitate when settling down and starting a family. Many people choose to relocate to a more affordable state.
- Average Marrying Age: The last official census in California marriages placed the median marrying age of Californian men at 29.5 years and women at 27.3 years. This number is steadily rising, and the Public Policy Institute of California recently stated that the average age for a Californian woman's first marriage has exceeded 30 years.
- Average Duration Before Divorce:Compared to the national average, California marriages last slightly longer before divorce. US marriages ending in divorce tend to expire around the 8-year mark. However, California boasts an average marriage length of roughly 8.9 years.
- Divorce Rates: California's divorce rates have declined, possibly due to people's reluctance to marry as early as before. In 2019, only nine other states had divorce rates lower than California's purported 7.1 percent.
How to Find California Marriage Records
Everyone's had a bad experience trying to pry information from a government facility, and California marriage records are no exception. These documents are public information but require some background information to be found quickly.
Before anything else, make sure you know the following:
- County the marriage was filed in
- Date of the ceremony
- Names of the spouses (before marriage)
This information will allow the clerk's office or vital records representative to quickly locate the record without requesting repetitive clarifications. You may also be charged additional fees if they have to run multiple searches.
Requestors have both online and in-person options for receiving their marriage records depending on when and where they were wed.
You can locate public California marriage records online if the event occurred between 1905 and 1999 or 2009 and 2022. The vital records division cannot send out certified marriage certificates for the following years:
California also offers confidential marriage licenses. These marriages make it more challenging to procure a marriage record later but keep your information much more secure. Only the spouses listed on the document can request a copy, as opposed to public marriage records, which anyone with a valid interest can obtain.
Online requests aren't made directly to the vital records division but are outsourced to third-party services. These services are:
These third-party services often have multiple fees, including "expedited shipping" options. The California Vital Records Division doesn't provide expedited rush orders, so do not pay for this add-on. In most cases, you can expect a turnaround of 20 business days.
Spouses wanting a faster way to get their marriage records should visit the county clerk's office in person. You will usually get same-day service unless you're missing search information or requesting a revision to the document.
You must visit the clerk with a completed Form VS 113a (Application for a Certified Copy of Marriage Record). Some counties, like Los Angeles County, require an appointment, but others allow walk-ins. You may want to call ahead of time to see what's acceptable.
You can also request by mail by sending Form VS (113a) and the $17 money order to the California Department of Public Health. If you aren't a direct relative, you'll also need a notarized sworn statement of permission.
What Is NOT Included in Marriage Records and Potential Errors and Omissions
The information contained in California marriage records can vary quite a bit. However, the listed information is often limited to general questions the state census asks. A marriage record will never include more sensitive details like social security numbers or recorded payment information.
It doesn't need that information because marriage records are only meant to prove the legitimacy of a marriage and aren't used in any other capacity. The biggest threat to your marriage records isn't identity theft but errors.
Writing down misspelled names, dates, or places could lead to some troublesome chores in the future. You'll need to correct the mistake before it can be used for legal processes, which requires an appointment with the county clerk's office. It'll also make it extremely difficult to locate your record since you'll be searching with only one spouse's name.
County Clerk Directory
Now you know what you need and where to go. However, working through government facilities is never as streamlined as you expect. So, if you need to reach the clerk's office directly, we've listed the contact information for the top ten biggest California counties.
|Los Angeles County
|Dean C. Logan
|San Diego County
|Jordan Z. Marks
|San Bernardino County
|Santa Clara County
|Conta Costa County
|Kristin B. Connelly
|James A. Kus
FAQ on Marriage Records in California
How long will it take to get a copy of my marriage record in California?
Requestors can expect at least 20 business days before getting a certified copy when ordering through a sponsored third-party service. This processing speed is affected by how much information you provide, and there's a slight chance that the record was never moved to the Vital Record's archives.
For a more consistent and speedy experience, visiting your county clerk's office in person is recommended. You can expect to get your hands on the record that day, and it will also have the official raised seal that'll be missing from email copies.
Who can request marriage records in California?
California offers two types of marriage licenses: public and confidential.
Anyone with interest can request public marriage records. This category includes close family members, relatives, guardians, or attorneys with explicit permission from any of the aforementioned groups.
Confidential marriage records are restricted to the named spouses. Not even the witnesses or officiant on the license have the right to order a confidential record.
Can I request an online or digital copy of a marriage record?
Yes, you can! The California Vital Records Division is partnered with three services that can make a request through. Unfortunately, these platforms are much more expensive than visiting the clerk's office but are still an excellent choice for spouses who have moved out of their original county.
How much does a marriage record cost?
California's Vital Record Division charges a $17 search fee for marriage records. You'll pay this if you go in person, alongside a small fee for additional copies.
Third-party services also charge the same $17 fee but add on their own processing and shipping fees. They also charge for expedited processing, but that doesn't speed up the search process because the Vital Records Division doesn't offer that service.
When ordering online, you can expect to pay anywhere from $35 to $50 for a certified marriage certificate.