If you want to seek a marriage-based green card, but you have been married before, bear in mind that the U.S. government requires spouses’ divorce decree, a certificate of annulment, or a death certificate. In addition, if you have had more marriages, you will have to obtain such a certificate for each of them.
This guide will stress out how you can get a copy of your divorce decree.
Herman Legal Group has over 25 years of experience in providing services to many clients in immigration-related cases. Our immigration attorneys have an individual approach and help clients access documents and information they need. If any question arises while reading this article, do not hesitate to contact us!
What is a Divorce Decree?
The divorce decree is official documents issued by the court that contain all the essential provisions on child custody and support, spousal support, property division, information about parties, and any other element of your divorce.
In addition, it usually contains basic information of both parties’ names, the effective date, social security, and the case number. This information can help you locate records of the divorce decree in the future if needed.
As essential certificates, you should keep the divorce record in a safe place, or you can choose to hand the certified copy over to your attorney.
Requirements to Get a Copy of a Divorce Decree?
Who Can Obtain a Copy of Divorce Decree?
Divorce decrees are public records, so, in general, anyone can request it if they pay the fee and submit the required forms. However, some U.S. states seek a personal affidavit, signed and notarized document from one of the spouses, granting permission for you to obtain a copy.
The sponsoring spouse (the U.S. citizen or a green-card holder) and the spouse seeking a green card must provide a photocopy of their final divorce decree.
Also, you can provide a certified copy. You don’t have to submit the original document with your application, but you have to bring it in person to your green card interview.
When Marriage Ended for Other Reasons?
If a marriage ended with a spouse’s death or by annulment, make sure to provide a photocopy of the death certificate or certificate of annulment, depending on the circumstances.
Don’t forget to bring the original or certified copies of these documents to the green card interview.
Where to Get a Divorce Decree?
#Divorce in the U.S.
If you filed for divorce in the U.S., the court that issued the document holds the record about it, and it could provide you with the divorce decree or obtain a copy from the vital records office.
#Obtaining the Copy from the Court
You may contact the “clerk of the court” in the county where the marriage occurred.
#Obtaining a copy from the vital records office
The other way is to contact the “county clerk’s office” in the state where your divorce is finalized.
Here you can find government vital records offices.
This government record includes marriage licenses and certifications, marriage decrees, and birth and death certificates. Also, this base of government offices shows the current fees for requesting the paperwork.
Not that payment usually must be made by attorney’s check, money order, bank certified check, or bank cashier’s check.
If more than ten years have passed, the court clerk’s office may no longer have a copy of the divorce decree. You can check the vital records department, office of vital statistics, or registrar in this case. Alternatively, you can contact your state department of records or registrar.
If your marriage ended in another country and you are in the U.S., you can contact the country’s embassy or nearest consulate that will instruct you on how to get a copy of the divorce decree.
If you filed for divorce outside the U.S., search for information about the issuing authority.
If you mail a request to the state’s records department, make sure to include the names of each spouse, the date of the request and the divorce, the location, the type of final decree, and the purpose. In addition, of course, the agency will need your name and address, and you can mail a copy of your driver’s license or another identification document.
#Translation of Divorce Papers
If you possess original divorce records in any other language than English, you will have to obtain a certified English translation for these documents.
I Lost My Divorce Decree – What Should I do?
Of course, you can request a new copy. The correct address for this requirement is the court where your divorce is finalized or the state or local vital records department where your marriage occurred.
You may pay a fee for obtaining a certified copy- an official document proving the court verified it. You will need such a document when you want to get married again.
How Fast Can I Obtain it?
Some states require a waiting period before you may file a request for a new copy. So, in case you lost it 30 days after your divorce, you will have to wait before the state provides you a new form.
If you hired an attorney for your divorce proceedings, you could request a copy of your divorce decree from the lawyer’s office. While state law doesn’t usually require attorneys to keep client records indefinitely, most need to keep the files for a minimum amount of time.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you have difficulties requesting an official copy of the divorce decree from the clerk’s office or the state vital records department, you should firstly contact the attorney who represented you in the divorce proceedings. Lawyers usually retain clients’ files for several years. However, if it’s not possible to take this path, we invite you to contact us.
Although Richard Herman initially practiced international business law, he realized the immense legal needs immigrants have trying to prosper, so he came as the top attorney for immigration-related cases, especially for services such as family-based green cards.
As a result, the attorneys at Herman Legal Group have developed nearly 20 years’ worth of experience helping immigrants thrive and reunite with their spouses and family.
Our attorneys can help you obtain a marriage certificate and decree by searching the court record, as well as prepare your documents and lead you through the process of getting the green card.
You can call us or request a consultation through the online form on our site. We can serve our clients throughout the U.S. and abroad, so if you are not in the U.S., don’t worry- we may have a Skype or ZOOM session to look through your case and determine the right strategy.
Related questions about Getting a Copy of a Divorce Decree
Can I get a copy of my divorce decree online in South Africa?
Unfortunately, you cannot get divorce decrees online in South Africa because it limits access to a public record.
The civil court, where you filed your divorce, holds a copy of a divorce license in electronic and hardcopy format. To search for a copy of this certificate, you will need your divorce case number and provide a signed affidavit to the person or an agency that will file this request for you.
Where can I get a copy of my divorce decree in Cook County?
The Domestic Relations Division of the Clerk of the Circuit Court holds the record for dissolution, separation, and invalidity for a marriage.
The certified copy includes the following information: the plaintiff’s complaint and defendant’s response; certificate of evidence and the judge’s final decree, with the terms of the settlement, grounds for divorce; personal information of parties; date and description of the marriage; and provision for the care of the children, but it doesn’t include social security numbers. To get a copy, you need to file the form you may find on the Cook County government site.