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California Vital Records

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The following is for informational purposes only

What are California Vital Records?

California Vital Records are records of births, deaths, marriages, domestic partnerships, and divorces that occur in the State of California.

Vital records are considered public records, and the right to access them are protected by law. Although anyone may review and even order an informational copy of vital records in California, obtaining a certified copy of some vital records is restricted to specific persons.

The California Public Records Act was passed in 1968 and required the disclosure of governmental records to the public unless the documents are otherwise exempted by law.


How Can I Get a California Birth Record?

Only the person registered on the birth certificate, immediate relatives, or those authorized by law may obtain a certified copy of a California birth certificate.

To obtain a certified copy of a California birth record, the authorized person should contact the California Department of Public Health – Vital Records or contact the county clerk's office in the county where the birth occurred. You may also obtain a certified copy of a California birth certificate through certain authorized online services.


How Can I Get Death Records in California?

Death records in California are considered public records so that any public member may view or even obtain an informational copy of a death certificate. However, like birth records, certified copies of death certificates are only available to the immediate relatives of the deceased and other legally authorized persons.

You can also obtain certified copies of California death records by contacting The California Department of Public Health – Vital Records or the county clerk's office in the county where the death occurred. The California Department of Health offers helpful instructions for obtaining a California death certificate.


How Can I Get California Marriage Records?

California marriage records are of two types. In the Golden State, you have an option of obtaining a California public marriage license or a California confidential marriage license.

Let's break down the requirements for each type of California marriage license:

California Public Marriage License

A California public marriage license is registered at the County Recorder's Office in the county where the parties purchased the license. It is considered a public record, and anyone may get a copy of it by submitting the required fee and completing the proper application to the county recorder. The requirements include:

  • At least 18 years old. If you are not 18 years old, you must have written consent from at least one parent and obtain legal permission from a California Superior Court Judge. Even an emancipated minor in California cannot marry without meeting these requirements.
  • You can get your California public marriage license from any county in California and be married in another county if you want. However, you must file the marriage license in the county you purchased it after your marriage.
  • One witness is required at your California wedding. The marriage certificate has a place for two witnesses; however, only one witness is required. If you have more than two witnesses sign your California marriage license, it will be returned without being filed, and you will need to purchase a duplicate license.
  • Your witness(es) must be old enough to understand that they are witnessing a marriage ceremony and be able to sign their name on the license; however, there is no required age.

California Confidential Marriage License

In California, you have the option of having a confidential marriage license. Without a court order, only the married couple may obtain a copy of the California confidential marriage license after presenting proper identification and paying the required fee to the county clerk where the marriage license is recorded.

You cannot get a copy of a California confidential marriage license from the state office of vital records, but only through the county clerk's office where the certificate is filed.


How Can I Get California Divorce Records?

When a couple decides to end their California marriage, a divorce is recorded as a public record. In California, you can find divorce records in three different ways. Let's look at the three types of California divorce records.

  • California Divorce Certificate – this record has the least personal information but is the most commonly sought California divorce record. This certificate provides that the two parties got a divorce and where and when they were divorced. Unfortunately, this document is usually only available to divorced parties and their attorneys.
  • California Divorce Decree – this record includes everything the California Divorce Certificate has and provides information from the judgment of divorce. It often consists of divorce terms, child custody and support, alimony support, and property divisions. The divorce decree is usually only available to the parties and the attorneys of record.
  • California Divorce Record – this record is the entire court file of the divorce proceeding. It has all the information found in the California divorce certificate and the California divorce decree. Also, it contains all the pleadings and documents filed into the court record during the divorce action. The California divorce record is more accessible to the public and can be viewed similarly to other civil and criminal court records.

To obtain a copy of one of the above divorce records in California, you would want to contact the Superior Court for the county where the divorce was granted. This is the only place to obtain a certified copy of the divorce decree in California. The California Courts website contains a listing of all the county courts in the state.

Helpful State Resources