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California Court Records

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California Marriage Records

California marriage records provide legal proof of voluntary unions between individuals in the state. Such documents typically attest to the marital status of individuals. Other details available in a marriage record may include the following:

  • Full names of the spouses
  • Date of the marriage
  • Location of the ceremony
  • The names of the marriage officiants or witnesses.
  • Signature of registrants and witnesses

The California Department of Public Health-Vital Records (CDPH-VR) maintains records of marriages in the state. This includes certified copies of certificates of marriages from 1905 to 1999 and between 2008 and 2022. Individuals can get copies of certificates for the years 2000 to 2007 and 2023 at the County Clerk’s office where the license was issued.

Note: Although the CDPH-R maintains California marriage records, copies of records can also be accessed at various county clerk offices across the state. In addition, the California Department Of Public Health - Vital Records does not keep certified copies of licenses for confidential marriages. These are available at the County Clerk’s Office at the location where the marriage took place.

What are the Types of Marriage Records available in California?

California law recognizes two types of marriage records. These are

  • Public marriage records
  • Confidential marriage records.

Public marriage records are accessible to individuals other than the owners of the record (the married couple). They are obtainable from the CDPH-VR or the County Clerk’s Office in the location where authorized individuals recorded the marriage. Conversely, confidential records are private records. Unlike public marriage records, only the owners of the confidential records can have access to them. 

The California Department of Public Health maintains information on public marriage records for the years 1908 to 1999 and between 2008 and 2022. In comparison, the County Clerk’s Office has both public and confidential records for the years 2000 to 2007 and 2023.

In California, the legal age for marriage without parental consent is 18 years

California Marriage Certificate:

A marriage certificate is a legal document that authenticates the marital status of individuals. In California, marriage certificates are issued by the County Clerk’s Office in the county where the marriage occurs. Marriage certificates are issued by the County Clerk’s Office when a filled-out marriage license is returned for recording after a marriage ceremony is completed.

California Marriage License:

A marriage license is a legal document issued by a government (or an authorized agency) giving couples a concession to marry. To obtain a marriage license in California, applicants must meet the following:

  • Intending spouses must not be in a marriage at the time of applying for a license.
  • Both parties must appear in person at the County Clerk’s Office with valid picture identification and state-issued identification such as passport, driver’s license, a copy of birth certificate, or military identification.
  • A marriage ceremony must be in the presence of a witness for authenticity
  • Intending spouses must freely enter the marriage (they must give their consent and must not wed under duress)
  • Individuals must be 18 years or older when applying for a license. Persons below 18 must have the consent of at least one of their parents or a guardian or a court order.

Note: Marriage by proxy is prohibited in California. Both parties must be physically present at the marriage ceremony. California marriage licenses are valid for 90 days. Couples must be married within this time frame from the day of issuance.

Are California Marriage Records Public?

Yes, California marriage records are public. However, this only applies to public marriage records. Confidential marriages are private, and only the marriage record owners can access them. The California Public Record Act (CPRA) allows individuals to access public records that are not exempted from disclosure. 

Copies of marriage records issued in California are either informational or authorized. Although the informational and authorized copies are certified copies of the original document, the informational copy can not be used to identify the parties involved in the marriage. Authorized certified copies of marriage records can be used to identify the registrants in the marriage certificate.

How to Find Marriage Records in California

Marriage records are available at the California Department Of Public Health or the County Clerk's Office at the location where the marriage took place. Depending on the year, you can find marriage records by: 

  • Electronic submission 
  • Mail-in request 
  • Visiting the County Clerk's Office.

Online electronic submissions are available through accredited independent third parties for onward transmission to the CDPH-VR or the appropriate County Clerk's Office. 

Marriage records may also be accessible from third-party platforms. Unaffiliated with the government, these platforms provide access to public records compiled from multiple jurisdictions within and beyond California. To request marriage records, you can log in to any of the third-party websites and provide the following information when prompted:

  • Names of the married couple
  • Date of marriage
  • Marriage location
  • Relationship of the requestor to the married couple
  • Reason for requesting the marriage record 
  • A notarized signed sworn statement by the requestor if a certified authorized record is needed. 

You can also download, fill out, and mail a marriage record application form to the County Clerk’s Office where the marriage took place or to:

The California Department of Public Health | Vital Records – MS 5103 

P.O. Box 997410 | Sacramento 

CA, 95899-7410

Note that as of December 2023, the California Department Of Public Health has marriage records between 1905 and 1999 and from 2008 to 2022. For records of marriages from 2000 to 2007 and 2023, requesters must write to the County Clerk’s Office at the location where the marriage took place. Also, an application fee of $17.00 is applicable for every certified true copy of the marriage record.

How to Get a Marriage License in California

A marriage license is a document that grants couples legal approval for marriage. In California, intending couples must get a marriage license before getting married. Marriage licenses aren't the same as a marriage record. A marriage license is distinct from a marriage record, as outlined in the table below.

 

Marriage License

Marriage Record

Function Use

This is a legal document that authorizes a couple to get married

This is a legal document that shows the marital status of couples. It is evidence of a marriage

How it is obtained

Individuals must apply and obtain a marriage license from the County Clerk before the wedding. Both parties must be present with identification documents and also pay the required fee before it is issued.

After the marriage ceremony, the officiant and witnesses to the marriage sign the marriage license and turn it into a marriage certificate.

Validation

Typically, it has a validity period of 90 days, and the marriage must occur within this time. After the marriage, the license is filled out with the necessary data and becomes a marriage certificate.

Completed marriage certificates are returned to the County Clerk’s Office for recording as proof of marriage.

To obtain a marriage license in California, individuals generally follow the steps outlined below:

  • Intending spouses should visit any County Clerk’s Office in California 
  • Obtain and fill out a marriage license application form (these are available at the County Clerk’s Office or can be downloaded from their websites)
  • Provide valid identification for both parties (this may be any driver’s license, passport, state-issued ID card, or military identification)
  • Provide proof of age, parental consent, or court order if any or both parties are below 18 years
  • Provide social security numbers for both parties or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) for non-U.S. citizens
  • Pay the marriage license fee (the amount may vary across California counties).

Note: There is a six-day waiting period before marriage can occur after the issuance of a marriage license in California (this can be waived under certain circumstances). A California-issued marriage license has a validity period of 90 days from the date of issuance, and the marriage ceremony must take place before it elapses. Also, marriage in California must be officiated by a qualified person (priest, minister, rabbi, captain of the Salvation Army, or a judge).

Who can obtain Marriage Records in California?

There are legal procedural requirements for individuals seeking marriage records in California. Requirements are enforced to protect the security and privacy of the records and ensure that only authorized individuals have access to them. To obtain marriage records in California, individuals must meet eligibility, proof of identity (in the form of a driver’s license, passport, state-issued ID, or military identification), and relationship requirements. In CA, authorized copies of marriage records are made available to the public if the requestor is:

  • One of the registrants in the certificate, their parents, or guardian
  • An individual empowered to receive the record by a court order
  • An attorney to any of the parties involved in the marriage or their estates 
  • Law enforcement may require such records for ongoing investigation
  • An offspring, sibling, grandchild, grandparent, spouse, or partner of the involved parties.

Marriage records are available through the County Clerk's Office. 

Can You Look up Online Marriage Records For Free in California

Yes, you can look up online marriage records in California. The California Department Of Public Health website may provide some free records. However, accessing official certified copies of marriage records in California requires a fee. Requesters must also meet the eligibility requirements.

In addition, the California Birth, Death, and Marriage Record (CDMR) Index program of the CDPH offers free basic information on marriages between 1960 and 1985.  Marriage records may also be accessible on some online third-party platforms. Some third-party sites provide records at no cost, while others offer partial information on marriage certificates for free and then charge for more detailed data.

Is California a Common Law State for Marriage?

California is not a common law state for marriage. Common law marriage recognizes married couples who did not obtain marriage licenses nor had a marriage ceremony. However, California recognizes the validity of marriages established in states that uphold common marriage laws, including Alabama, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana. 

For a common law marriage to be recognized in California, it must fulfill the following conditions:

  • Couples must show proof of marriage.
  • The marriage must validly fulfill the legal requirements of the state where it was conducted.

Note:  California recognizes domestic partnerships. It also recognizes cohabitation agreements that meet the requirements of California Family Code Section 297. Any adult may enter into any of these unions. However, individuals under 18 need parental consent or a court order for domestic partnership and cohabitation.

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