Table of Contents
- What are California Vital Records?
- California Birth Records
- Frequently Asked Questions About California Birth Records
- California Death Records
- Frequently Asked Questions About California Death Records
- California Marriage Records
- Frequently Asked Questions About California Marriage Records
- California Divorce Records
- Frequently Asked Questions About California Divorce Records
What Are California Vital Records?
The State of California is one of 57 government agencies in the United States that has the authority to collect, store, use, and share vital records. California law establishes who can access official copies of vital records in the state. Under State law, only specific persons are authorized to receive official, certified copies of vital records.
The State of California considers all birth, death, and marriage records to be vital records. The state began collecting records in 1905 and has more than 50 million vital records on file. Vital records include fetal death records, adoption records, and some divorce records.
The California Department of Public Health-Vital Records (CDPH-VR) is the state agency that provides access to records. Vital records are held at the county level in California. Each county has a County Recorder's Office that is responsible for collecting and recording vital records information. A directory of California County Recorder's Offices is online through the CDPH-VR.
California Birth Records
Official birth records are a confidential vital record in California. State law restricts access to birth records to the subject, immediate family members, and legal representatives. Individuals who qualify to receive a certified copy can request records online or by mail. Qualified individuals must submit a form, a sworn affidavit that details the requirements and responsibilities of the receiver of records, and pay a fee for the records search.
Individuals who do not qualify to receive an official, certified copy of a birth record in California may request an uncertified copy for informational purposes only. Any member of the public may request an unofficial record of birth. California law considers all birth records to be certified, but informational records will include a disclaimer that restricts the use of the document. Informational records cannot be used for legal purposes such as a marriage license, credit application, or passport. Applicants must pay the fee and submit the online or by-mail form, but are not required to include a notarized affidavit.
Frequently Asked Questions about California Birth Records
How Do I Find Birth Records in California?
Birth records are retained by the Department of Public Health-Vital Records and by the County Registrar. Records requests can be made online or by mail. Birth records less than six months old are held by the County Registrar or County Department of Health and are not available through the CDPH-VR.
How Do I Find a Certified Copy of My Birth Certificate?
The CDPH-VR provides all of the forms and information you need to request your birth certificate. You will need to provide proof of identity and a notarized affidavit, along with a fee to receive your birth certificate.
How Much Does a Certified Copy Cost?
Fees for birth certificates are $25 regardless of whether the record is certified or informational.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Birth Certificate in California?
The CDPH-VR requires four to four-and-a-half weeks processing for online requests of births between 1905 and 1957, and five to five-and-a-half weeks for mail-in requests.
Records between 1958 to current require a processing time of two to two-and-a-half weeks for online requests and three to three-and-a-half weeks for mail-in requests.
What Happens if My Records Can't Be Found?
California state law holds that records searches that result in no records found will still incur a fee. You will receive a notice that no record has been found, but you will not get a refund for your fees.
What is the Difference Between Certified and Informational Records?
A certified birth record in California is a legal document that can be used to get a loan, apply for a passport, and many other official purposes. An informational record is still an official, certified copy, but may have social security numbers and other confidential information removed. Informational records can't be used for official purposes.
Can I Request Records From the County Recorder's Office?
You can request birth certificate records from the county that holds the record. Processing times may be faster than requesting documents from the CDPH-VR.
How Can I Add or Remove Information From My Records?
You can request to have your parents added or removed from your birth certificate by filing the correct forms with the CDPH-VR. A fee of $23 is charged for amendments to birth records.
Does California Offer Financial Assistance for Records Requests?
California provides an option to receive a free birth certificate record, but you must meet certain requirements. Generally, the program is only available to homeless Californians.
Can You Check If A Record Exists Before I Pay a Fee?
The CDPH-VR can't provide information about whether a record exists without first receiving an application, fees, and a sworn affidavit for certified copies.
California Death Records
The State of California holds records of every recorded death in the state from July 1905 to current. Records are retained by the California Department of Public Health-VR (CDPH-VR). Death records are confidential and are not public records under law in the state. Informational records are available to anyone who pays the fees and submits an application, but some information like social security numbers will be redacted.
Individuals requesting an official, certified copy of a death record in California must provide proof of identity, file an application form and a notarized affidavit that details the restrictions of using the document, and pay a fee. People who do not meet the eligibility requirements to receive a certified copy can request an informational record and are not required to get a notarized affidavit.
The CDPH-VR does not have records less than six months old. These records are held by the County Registrar.
Frequently Asked Questions about California Death Certificates
How Can I Get a Certified Death Certificate in California?
How Much are the Fees for a Death Certificate in California?
The State of California charges $21 for records of adult deaths in the state occurring from 1905 to present. Fetal death certificates cost $18. Records of still born deaths can be requested for $24. You must submit an application with fees and a sworn affidavit for all official death records.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Death Record in California?
Processing times for records from 1905 to 1993 take four to four-and-a-half weeks processing for online requests, and five to five-and-a-half weeks for mail-in requests.
Records between 1994 to current require a processing time of two to two-and-a-half weeks for online requests and three to three-and-a-half weeks for mail-in requests.
Who Can Get Official Certified Death Records?
Certified death records are confidential under California law and are restricted to immediate family, the spouse of the deceased, or legal representatives. If you do not qualify for a certified copy of the record, you can still request an informational copy that will include the facts of the death, but not the social security number.
Can I get a Refund if the Record I Want Can't Be Found?
Fees that are charged by the CDPH-VR for copies of death records are not returned. The State retains fees to cover the costs of research, even when records can't be found.
Can I Correct Information on a Death Certificate in California?
The CDPH-VR provides a form online you can use to correct information on a death certificate, such as spelling errors or incomplete information. You will need to supply supporting documents such as a birth certificate or marriage certificate. There is no charge to amend a death certificate within one year of death, but a certified copy of the amended record will incur a $21 fee. A $23 fee is charged for amendments made after one year following the individual's death.
How Do I Check on the Status of My Record Request?
The CDPH-VR does not provide an option for a status check of a record request. Once you submit your record request, the CDPH-VR will begin processing and will provide results within the listed processing timeframe.
What is the Difference Between a Certified and an Informational Copy?
Certified copies of death records are restricted to certain individuals. Certified records are used for official purposes, like applying for death benefits. Informational copies can't be used for official purposes and will have some information redacted. Informational copies are typically used for research.
How Can I Find Death Records from Before 1905?
The State of California began statewide collection of vital records on July 1, 1905. Death records prior to that date are held by the California State Archives, but the records are incomplete and only include some counties.
Can You Tell Me if a Record Exists Before I Pay a Fee?
The CDPH-VR cannot find a record for you without an application and payment of research fees. You will need to submit a completed application and the appropriate fees to get a copy of a death certificate in California.
California Marriage Records
California allows two types of marriages, public and confidential. The California Department of Health-Vital Statistics (CDPH-VR) retains statewide records of marriage certificates filed by County Recorders. Certificates of public marriage are available to anyone who requests the record, files a complete application, and pays the required fees. A certified marriage certificate costs $15. Records requests can be made online or through the mail.
Confidential marriage records are not available to the public and are not retained by the CDPH-VR. You will need to contact the County Registrar to obtain a copy of a confidential marriage certificate. Only the spouses, children or other immediate family, or a legal representative can obtain confidential marriage records.
Frequently Asked Questions about California Marriage Certificates
How Do I Obtain Marriage Records in California?
You can request a certified copy of a marriage license in California from the CDPH-VR website. Records of marriages are also retained by the County Registrar in the county the license was filed.
What Years of Marriage Records Are Available in California?
The CDPH-VR holds public marriage records from July1, 1905 through 2000, and public records from 2008 to current. Marriage records prior to 1905 can be found through the California State Archives. Public records from 2001-2007 are held by the County Registrar in the county where the license was filed.
Records are not available from the CDPH-VR for the first six months after marriage. These records are held by the County Registrar.
How Can I Get a Copy of a Confidential Marriage License?
The County Registrar holds records of confidential marriages. Only the spouses, children and immediate family, or a legal representative may obtain a confidential marriage license record.
How Much Are Fees for a Certified Marriage Record?
The CDPH-VR charges $15 for copies of a certified marriage record. Fees are also charged for confidential marriage records, but those documents are not public.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Copy of a California Marriage License?
The CDPH-VR states that online requests will require four to four-and-a-half weeks for marriages occurring between 1905 and 1960. Mail-in requests for these dates will require five to five-and-a-half weeks to process.
Records between 1960 and 1999, or 2008 to current will require two to two-and-a-half weeks for online submissions and three to three-and-a-half weeks for mail-in requests.
What Are the Differences Between Public and Confidential Marriages?
Beyond the fact that public marriages are available to the public, while confidential records are not, the information available on the record itself varies. For instance, a public marriage record requires witnesses and signatures that are not required for confidential records. California is the only state to offer confidential marriage licenses and public marriage licenses.
Can You Check for Records Before I Pay a Fee?
The CDPH-VR cannot verify the existence of a marriage record prior to payment of fees. The fees paid are intended to fund the research for the record.
The Record I Requested Doesn't Exist, Can I Get a Refund?
The State of California will not refund fees paid to research the existence of a record.
How Can I Find Marriage Records From Before 1905 in California?
Prior to July 1, 1905, marriage records were held only by the County Registrar that issued the license. To find historical records, you will need to contact the County Registrar that issued the license. A list of County offices is provided by CDPH-VR for people conducting research on older records.
How Can I Correct Errors on My Marriage Records?
You can fix some errors on your marriage records by filing a request with the CDPH-VR. Errors such as spelling mistakes or incomplete information can be amended. Corrections filed within one year of the marriage will not incur a fee, but a certified copy of the amended record will cost $15. Marriage record corrections beyond one year of the event will require a processing fee of $23, but will include a certified copy of the amended record.
Divorce Records in California
Divorce records are a public document in California and are not considered a vital record. Anyone may request records from the Department of Public Health-Vital Records (CDPH-VR). The records will not include the case file, but will only be the cover page that lists the names and other identifying information. Divorce records are held by the County Superior Court that issued the dissolution. You can request access to these records through the Clerk of the Court.
Records can only be requested by mail for divorces that happened between 1962 and 1984. CDPH-VR holds other records, but does not provide them to the public. For records outside of these years, you will need to contact the Clerk of the Court at the Superior Court that issued the dissolution decree.
Frequently Asked Questions About California Divorces
How Can I Request a Copy of a Divorce Record?
The CDPH-VR has divorce records from 1962-1984 that are available to the public. Newer or older records are held by the Superior Court that issued the decree. You can request records from CDPH-VR online or by mail. Superior Court records are requested from the Clerk of the Court.
What Information is Provided on a Divorce Record in California?
Records of divorces between 1962-1984 requested from the CDPH-VR will include the face sheet of the divorce hearing. This information will include the names, addresses, and other information, but will not include records of the hearing. The record of hearing is retained by the Superior Court that issued the divorce decree.
How Much Does a Divorce Record Cost?
The fee for a copy of a divorce record from the CDPH-VR is $14. You can also request the divorce record from the Superior Court. There is no charge to view records in person, but copies cost $0.10 per page.
Will My Fee Be Refunded if My Record Can't Be Found?
The CDPH-VR will not refund fees paid to search for a divorce record, even if the record can't be found. You will receive a Certificate of No Public Record form.
Can CDPH-VR Tell Me if a Record Exists Before I Pay a Fee?
CDPH-VR will not provide evidence of the existence of a record without payment of the research fee. You might have good luck searching the Superior Court records to find the case, which can be done for free at the Superior COurt that issued the divorce.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Divorce Record in California?
Records requests made through the CDPH-VR for divorce records between 1962-1984 will require a processing time of five to five-and-a-half weeks. Records outside these dates are held by the Superior Court. Older records will be retained in offsite storage and will take between several days to several weeks to order. Requests for these records must be made through the Superior Court.
Can I Seal My Divorce Records?
It is possible to seal divorce records in California, but it is not an easy process. Courts are reluctant to seal records designated as public unless there is a compelling reason. Essentially, the risk of disclosing divorce information must outweigh the public benefit of access.