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How to Get a Copy of a Divorce Decree

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Key Takeaways

When you apply for a marriage green card, you'll have to prove to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the marriage you're basing your application on is legitimate. You'll do this in different ways, including providing legal marriage documents showing that you share true love with your spouse. If you've been previously married, you'll also have to prove that all your previous marriages have legally ended - either by death of your spouse or divorce. This article explains how to get a copy of your divorce decree and other marriage termination documents for your marriage green card application.

Table of Contents

Who must submit divorce documents?

You (the green card applicant) and your sponsoring spouse must submit a photocopied certified copy (containing the issuing office’s seal or stamp) of the final divorce decree for all your prior marriages. You must also bring the original or certified copy of the divorce decree to your green card interview.

Suppose that you and a spouse were previously married but not divorced. For example, perhaps your marriage ended after a spouse’s death or by annulment. In this case, you should submit a photocopy of your spouse’s death certificate or your certificate of annulment. You must bring an original or certified copy of these documents to your green card interview.

Perhaps your divorce records are not in English. In this case, you should submit your documents with a certified English translation

How to get a copy of a divorce decree

If your divorce case happened in the United States, you can likely obtain your divorce decree from the court records of the county clerk’s office that issued your divorce. You can find the name and location of your clerk’s office on the original court order for your divorce. You can also request an official copy of your divorce decree from the office of vital records, office of vital statistics, or registrar in the state where you filed for divorce. You can find the name of your vital records office by checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. You may also find out any additional fees you’ll need to pay to your vital records office on the CDC’s website. In most cases, you’ll be able to pay processing fees by personal check, money order, and sometimes even by credit card.

If your divorce case happened abroad, you can find out how to obtain your divorce records from the issuing authority in your foreign country on the U.S. Department of State’s reciprocity schedule. The State Department’s reciprocity schedule will help you find the name of your issuing authority, the current fee, and the necessary steps for obtaining an official copy of your marriage records and divorce records. You should select the first letter of your foreign country’s name on the State Department’s webpage, select your country, and click on the “Marriage, Divorce Certificates” tab.

You may also obtain death certificates and annulment certificates using the same processes as above through your state’s specific department of health or vital records office.

What documents can you submit instead of a divorce decree?

Suppose you can’t find your marriage license, marriage certificate, or divorce certificate or can’t obtain the original copies. In that case, you must submit the following two documents instead:

  1. A notarized personal affidavit describing the facts of your marriage and explaining why you aren’t able to submit an official copy of your marriage or divorce records. 
  2. A certified statement from the appropriate government agency explaining why your marriage or divorce records are not available for submission.

If you can’t get a certified statement from a government agency, you should instead submit a supplementary notarized personal affidavit from a parent or a close relative. The close relative must be older than you. Your relative should state they have personal knowledge of your marriage or divorce in their affidavit. They should be sure to describe their relationship with you, how well they know you, and how they got to know the information they share in their affidavit.

Conclusion

Applying for a green card can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your green card case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!

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