Whether you are searching your own family history or simply need to resolve an important issue, finding a record of a divorce can be extremely important. In California, searching for divorce records can sometimes be a challenge. That's because California divorce records are not compiled in one, easy-to-go-to place and to find the record you are after you will need to know some additional information about the divorce, such as where it was issued and when it took place. While California divorce records may not be the easiest to find, if you know how and where to look for them then you will discover that your search will be completed quickly and relatively easily.
Department of Health Services
In a sense, the State of California does maintain a central database of divorce records through Department of Health Service's Office of Vital Statistics in Sacramento. By mailing the office and providing them with a fee, you will be able to get a certified copy of a divorce decree. There are a number of catches, however. The biggest problem is that you can only get certified copies of divorce that were issued in California between 1962 and 1984. If the divorce you're looking for falls outside of that timeframe then you will need to look elsewhere. Secondly, due to budget cutbacks and demand, getting a certified copy from the Department of Health Services can take an extremely long time, even several months.
Your County's Superior Court
The most reliable way of getting your hands on the divorce record you are after is to visit or mail the Superior Court in the county in which the divorce was decreed. That's because divorce records are kept at the county level, meaning that all divorces will be kept on record at the Superior Court in individual counties. However, one obvious problem with this approach is that you will need to know where the divorce that you are looking for took place. While that may be easy if it is your own divorce record you are trying to get a copy of, it can be more difficult if you are doing genealogical research.
One problem with getting a copy of your divorce records through the Superior Court or the Department of Health Services is that it is both time consuming and costly. A cheaper and faster method is to use online public records databases, such as Ancestry.com. These databases tend to have the same records as you would find with the Department of Health Services, meaning that they tend to only cover the period between 1962 and 1984 (although many are expanding their scope). The one drawback is that you cannot get a certified copy of a divorce record through these sites, but if you are simply looking for these records out of curiosity or to complete your family tree then a certified copy shouldn't be necessary.
Unfortunately, there is no one solution to finding divorce records in California. Because records have yet to be compiled in one central database, you will need to get a little creative to uncover the records you're after. However, as the above article shows, with a little planning you can get your hands on any California divorce records you are looking for.