ESTABLISHING A FACT OF MARRIAGE
This section explains what to do when you do not have proper evidence of a marriage. The information is from the Superior Court of California County of Santa Clara. http://www.scscourt.org/self_help/probate/probate_facts.shtml
For more information, read Health and Safety Code Section 103450-103490 .
This page has information on how to Establish a Record of Marriage (Health and Safety Code Section 103450-103490) .
- When does someone need to establish a Fact of Marriage?
Here are some examples of situations when you may want to establish.
Fact of Marriage
- If your marriage was not registered in a timely manner, or
- You married outside the U.S. and you cannot get a certified marriage certificate, or
- You were married in a religious ceremony but did not get a civil marriage license
- Is there a court form I can use to do this?
- BMD-002 Petition to Establish Fact, Date and Place of Marriage
- BMD-002A Declaration in Support of Petition to Establish Fact, Date and Place of Marriage
- VS-122 Order Establishing Fact of Marriage (not a court form)
- Pamphlet Re: Court Order Delayed Certificate of Marriage
- How do I file the Petition?
Bring your petition, and at least one copy to the Downtown Superior Court in San Jose. Go to the Probate Clerk’s Office on the first floor. The clerk will file your Petition and give you endorsed-filed copies of the petition.
- How do I get a hearing date?
When you file your Petition, the clerk will give you the first available date. The Clerk will put the date, time, and department for your hearing on the copies of your petition.
- How much is the filing fee?
The filing fee is listed on the Probate Fee Schedule under “Petition to establish birth, death, marriage.” See the local fee schedule on the Court’s Fee page. You can pay by cash or check. Make your check payable to Superior Court.
- How do I get an Order that establishes a Fact of Marriage?
When you file your petition, the clerk will give you an Order. Fill out the Order carefully and take it to the Probate clerk five days before your hearing. You must type your information or write legibly in black ink. The Court will not accept your form if you have eraser marks, white-out or other changes to the text. If the judge approves your Petition, s/he will sign the Order.
- How do I get ready for the hearing?
Come to court on the date and time written on your Petition. Arrive early. You’ll need extra time to park (see the map on the DTS Courthouse page), go through security and to find your courtroom.
When the Judge calls your case, walk to the counsel table and give the clerk your completed Order, unless you have already filed it. The judge will sign it. The order goes into effect as soon as the judge signs it.
After the hearing, take your order to the Probate Department on the 1st floor and file it. While you are there, buy extra, certified copies of your order. The clerk will charge you for these copies. (See the local fee schedule on the Fees page for certification and copying fees).
- How do I register a delayed record of marriage?
Send a certified copy of your Order Establishing Fact of Marriage to the Department of Health Services along with the completed Court Order Delayed Registration. (This is the second part of the order form.)
The address is:
Department of Health Services
Office of Vital Records
304 S Street,
Post Office Box 73024
Sacramento, CA 94244-0241
Here is the fillable form VS122 for the State of California Click Here
Court Order Delayed Certificate of
Revised January 2018
Center for Health Statistics and Informatics – Vital Records
Upon request, this document will be made available in alternate formats. To obtain a copy in an alternate format, please call or write:
California Department of Public Health
Vital Records – M.S. 5103
P.O. Box 997410
Sacramento, CA 95899-7410
Telephone: (916) 445-2684
California Relay: 711/1-800-735-2929
Website address: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/
If a marriage was never registered, or there is no record of the marriage on file, what can I do?
A Court Order Delayed Certificate of Marriage is a way to register a California marriage when the marriage was not previously registered, or a certified copy is not obtainable.
Any beneficially interested person can petition the Superior Court to judicially establish the fact of marriage at any time after the event.
This must be done in the Superior Court in either the county of residence of the person whose marriage is being established (does not have to be in California), or in the California county where the marriage was alleged to have occurred.
What are the requirements for a valid marriage in California?
A California marriage requires three events to be considered valid:
1. The issuance of a marriage license to two unmarried persons
2. A ceremony on or after the issuance date of the license
3. A marriage solemnized by a person authorized to do so
In the absence of these three events, the couple can purchase a new marriage license and start over. Or, if the couple wants to try to validate their marriage when one or more of the above criteria are missing, including situations where the license was not purchased or was purchased after the fact, then they may petition the Superior Court to establish the fact of marriage.
How do I petition the court?
California Department of Public Health – Vital Records (CDPH-VR) suggests you contact a family law attorney for legal advice in this matter. CDPH-VR staff cannot provide legal advice, nor does CDPH-VR have information about the legal process. There are also books available at bookstores or public libraries to help you with the court process.
You can access the court website for additional information about the court process and to get the court forms you will need, including versions that you can fill out on your computer (http://www.courts.ca.gov/). The court will require you to fill out, sign, and file Judicial Council forms MC-362 and MC-362A with the court, and provide the court with an order ready for the judge’s signature. You can also get the forms from the court where you will file the completed forms.
After I get the court order, what do I submit to register the marriage?
At the time of the court hearing, you must present the court with a completed Order Establishing Fact of Marriage/Court Order Delayed Certificate of Marriage (VS 122) form, along with any documents you have that support the date and place of the marriage. Please see page 5 for information on obtaining a form.
Once the court establishes the fact of marriage, mail the following items to the CDPH-VR office using the address on the front of this pamphlet:
- Certified copy of the Order Establishing Fact of Marriage (top of VS 122 form)
- Completed Court Order Delayed Certificate of Marriage (bottom of VS 122 form)
- $23 fee
- Completed marriage application (VS 113-A) – a form is available on the CDPH website (Sworn Statement is not needed since a court order is required).
See next section for explanation of “certified” copy.
CDPH-VR does not return the court order after the marriage certificate is prepared. Keep copies of documents submitted.
What is a “certified” copy of the court order?
A “certified” copy of the court order must be a copy of the order that was originally prepared by the court. It cannot be an original printout.
If the court gives you an original printout, please ask them to make a photocopy. The photocopy that the court gives you must have:
- An original court seal.
- A signature (or signature stamp) of the judge.
- A signature (or signature stamp) of the court clerk.
- The “certified” copy must have an original court seal and a signature (or signature stamp) of the court clerk. It is the original seal and court clerk signature (certification) that make this a “certified” copy.
- Do not send CDPH-VR a copy where the court seal has been photocopied. The court seal must be an original seal.
- The court seal and a certified stamp with the date and a signature must appear on the actual certified copy of the Order Establishing the Fact of Marriage (either front or back) – and not on the Court Order Delayed Certificate of Marriage form or a blank sheet of paper.
- The “FILED / ENDORSED” stamp in the top right corner of the court order is not the court clerk’s certification.
- You should keep a photocopy of the court order for your own file.
What is the fee for a court order delayed registration?
- $23 – which includes one Certified Copy of the marriage certificate.
- Additional copies are $15 each.
- Fees should be paid by check or money order payable to CDPH Vital
Records. International money orders for out-of-country requests must be payable in U.S. dollars.
Where can I get the VS 122 form?
- One VS 122 form is included if you receive this pamphlet by mail. If you need additional copies of the VS 122 form, or are accessing this pamphlet on the CDPH-VR website:
- Download a fillable form Here is the fillable form VS122 for the State of California Click Here
- Order paper forms electronically to be mailed to you by completing the VS 140 form available on the CDPH-VR forms webpage
- (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/PSB/Pages/BirthDeathMarriageCertificates.aspx). Because of the volume of phone calls CDPH-VR receives, the internet is usually a faster process for customers than calling the Customer Service Unit.
- Call the Customer Service Unit at (916) 445-2684.
- You can also get the form from the County Recorder in any California county.
How do I complete the VS 122 form?
The VS 122 is a two-part form.
The top part is the court order that will be signed by the judge.
The bottom part becomes the official marriage certificate that will be filed in the CDPH-VR office (State Registrar) and provided to the County Recorder’s Office in the county where the marriage occurred.
PART ONE (Top Portion) – Order Establishing Fact of Marriage
Complete all items except the judge’s signature and the line at the bottom that states “Done in court on this _____ day of _____A.D., 20____.”
Your reason for having to file the marriage by court order must be included on the Order (middle of the form, on the line that begins “in that”). If the reason is not included, you will have to return to court, have the Order amended, and provide CDPH-VR with a certified copy of the amended Order.
Before you leave the courthouse, make sure:
There is a case number on the Order.
The Order has been certified. (See previous section for explanation of “certified” copy.) CDPH-VR does not return the court order after the marriage certificate is prepared. Keep copies of documents submitted.
PART TWO (Bottom Portion) – Court Order Delayed Certificate of Marriage
Do not write on the “State File Number” line (directly below perforation) or on the bottom part of the form marked “State Registrar Use Only.”
Complete items 1A through 30 only.
What makes a VS 122 form “acceptable?”
Because the bottom part of the VS 122 form becomes the actual marriage certificate, it must adhere to strict guidelines:
- Items 1A through 30 must be completed.
- The form must be completed using the 26 alphabetical characters of the English language.
- Appropriate punctuation includes: a hyphen such as in “Smith-Jones,” an apostrophe as in “O’Hare,” a period as used with “Jr.” and a comma as with “Smith, Jr.”
- Unacceptable entries include: drawings, pictures, or symbols, and accents or marks added to a letter to indicate pronunciation or to distinguish it in some way, such as with è, ñ, ē, or ç.
- Because the form becomes the official record, every word and letter must be extremely clear and legible. Typing entries on the form ensures that the information is interpreted clearly.
- If you are completing the downloadable form, print on standard 8½” x 11” letter size, plain white paper, using black ink only, at 100% scale.
- If you are not able to type the form, it is extremely important that you take the extra time to print very clearly and legibly. Documents that are not legible will be returned to you to complete again.
- Only black ink is acceptable (per Health and Safety Code Section 102125).
- There cannot be any erasures, whiteout, or alterations.
How long will it take to get the marriage certificate?
The processing time for court order delayed marriage certificates can be located on the CDPH-VR website (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHSI/Pages/Vital-Records-Processing-Times.aspx).
What if I have additional questions?
Please call the Customer Service Unit at (916) 445-2684. If you are checking the status of your request, please wait until after the processing time has passed before contacting CDPH-VR.
In Summary, What Links to Forms and References May Be Required?
California Department of Public Health home page (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/)
Judicial Branch home page (http://www.courts.ca.gov/)
Application and Sworn Statement: Certified Copy of Marriage Record – VS 113-A form – page 1 of 3 (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHSI/Pages/Sworn-Statement.aspx)
Vital Record Applications (forms) – VS 122 – Court Order Delayed Certificate of Marriage (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/PSB/Pages/BirthDeathMarriageCertificates.aspx)
Request for Amendment or Registration Form – VS 140 – (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/PSB/Pages/BirthDeathMarriageCertificates.aspx)
Processing Times (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHSI/Pages/Vital-Records-Processing-Times.aspx)
Directory of County Vital Records Offices (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHSI/Pages/County-Registrars-and-Recorders.aspx)
A guide to Registering Vital Records after the Fact
This Guide includes instructions and sample forms. The Guide and related forms may be downloaded from: https://saclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/sbs-delayed-birth-marriage-and-death-certificates.pdf