Do I Need an Original Marriage Certificate to Get a Divorce?

Posted on: 8 mins read
Last updated:
Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

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To get divorced in England or Wales, you must submit or upload  a copy of your marriage certificate to the Court when issuing your divorce proceedings.

Your marriage certificate is replaced with your Certificate of Decree Absolute (For divorces that started on or after 6th April 2022, the new equivalent of a decree absolute is the 'final order'), which you’ll be given when you apply for the final stage of your divorce and you can rely on your it as proof that your marriage has being dissolved.

The final order is an important document, which we suggest you keep in safe place in case you need it in the future, for example, if you decide to re-marry.

A couple getting married. The man is placing a ring on the woman's finger

As petitions for divorce are done online, you will be asked to upload an image of your original marriage certificate, as the Gov website states:

“In this section you are required to upload an image of the marriage certificate (you do not have to provide the original, but this should be retained as it can be requested by a Judge or Legal Advisor at any point during the proceedings)”

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Don’t Have Your Original Marriage Certificate?

If you’ve misplaced your original marriage certificate or can’t get to it, you can contact your local Registrar’s office to get a certified copy of the marriage certificate, which you can use to issue your divorce proceedings.

It will cost you just a small fee of £11 to get a further copy of the certificate. You should expect it to arrive within 3 to 5 working days once you’ve made the payment, and then can begin the divorce process right away.

One option that might be more convenient is to obtain a replacement for your lost marriage certificate through the UK government's General Register Office (GRO). This service provides Certified Copy Marriage Certificates at a cost of £14, but it's essential to note that the processing time by the GRO typically takes a minimum of four weeks. As a result, you may need to postpone your divorce application until you've received the replacement certificate.

If you were married in Scotland, you will need to contact the National Records of Scotland (NROS) for an Official Extract from the Register. If you were married in Northern Ireland, you will need to contact the General Registry of Northern Ireland (GRONI).

How can I reach the General Register Office in the UK?

To order certificates by phone, you may dial +44 (0) 300 123 1837. Phone lines are open from Monday to Friday between 8 am and 6 pm, as well as on Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm. Additionally, you can request an application form over the phone.

If you prefer to apply by post, you will be required to complete a GRO application form. These forms can be obtained from the official GOV.UK website at Simply download and fill out the necessary form, then follow the provided instructions to submit your request by mail.

Is the original UK marriage certificate provided?

The term 'original' marriage certificate refers to the document issued at the time of the marriage ceremony. If this original certificate has been lost or misplaced, it cannot be retrieved. However, you have the option to request a certified copy of your marriage certificate through online channels. The original UK marriage certificate, issued to document the marriage ceremony between two individuals, holds a record of this significant event in their lives.

Why can’t you use a photocopy of a marriage certificate instead?

Using a photocopy of your original marriage certificate is generally not accepted due to concerns regarding authenticity and potential fraud. The UK government is the sole entity authorised to issue certified copies of certificates, and this practice is protected by Crown copyright law. This stringent control is in place to safeguard against fraudulent activities. Photocopying such a document is not only against best practices but also a breach of Crown Copyright, as specified in section 163 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Official, certified copies of documents are designed to be tamper-resistant and come with standardised formats, unique seals, and watermarks that are challenging to replicate. These security features are vital for confirming the document's legitimacy. For a range of legal processes, including divorce proceedings, name changes, immigration applications, and beneficiary claims, relying on the official, certified copy is crucial to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided.

A bouquet of roses behind a card saying 'Marriage Certificate'

What information should I provide when applying for a replacement marriage certificate?

To obtain a replacement marriage certificate, you will need to provide the following essential information:

  • Your full name (including your maiden name, if applicable).
  • Your spouse's full name (including their maiden name, if applicable).
  • The date of your marriage.
  • The location where the marriage took place.

What if I got married abroad – How do I replace my marriage certificate then?

Obtaining a marriage certificate for a marriage that took place outside of the UK can be a bit more intricate due to varying regulations in different countries. To initiate the process, it's advisable to contact the embassy of the country where your marriage occurred. Many embassies offer the option to order a copy of your marriage certificate directly through their official websites.

Moreover, it's essential to note that if your marriage certificate is not in English, you will need to provide the court with a certified translation of the document to meet the necessary requirements.

New Online Marriage Certificates

The Home Office announced that from 4th May 2021 marriages will be recorded online rather than through paper marriage certificates, and it will include both mothers’ and father’s names.

Before now, the document only included the fathers’ names of both the bride and groom, which the Home Office have called a “historic anomaly” that needed to be corrected.

The new single electronic register will speed up the process of legally recognising your marriage and means if you misplace the paper copy of your marriage, you can easily find any details you need. This is not only better for newlyweds, but also those who might divorce in the future.

Our Divorce Solicitors often see many cases where a divorcee has left the property suddenly, without taking any important documents, or you might have just simply misplaced the certificate.

You may also find that your partner has kept the original marriage certificate and is not giving it to you, to make things even more difficult.

We understand how stressful this can be but knowing you can pick up a copy so easily should offer you some relief when making a divorce application and we hope that the new electronic registry means this issue will become less common in the future.

Can I Simply Change my Paper Marriage Certificate to and Electronic Version If I have Lost The Original?

Sadly not.

If you’re getting a divorce, or need your marriage certificate for any other reason, and you were married before 4th May 2021, you’ll have to find your original marriage certificate or get a certified copy.

Will the courts return my marriage certificate after divorce?

Marriage certificates are not returned by the courts upon the completion of a divorce. This policy is in place because, in the divorce process, both the applicant and the respondent are issued a final order, which used to be known as the decree absolute , which serves as official confirmation that their marriage has been legally terminated.

The final order, often regarded as the conclusive step in the divorce proceedings, carries significant importance. It not only acts as compelling evidence of the granted divorce but also serves as a testament to the fact that a marital union once existed. This document thus encapsulates the transformation of a legal partnership into an officially recognized divorce, marking the formal conclusion of that chapter of life.

The retention of these final orders is not merely an administrative formality but rather a safeguard to protect the legal integrity of the process. It provides individuals with a tangible record of their divorce, demonstrating the transition from a married status to a legally separated one, and reaffirms their freedom to engage in subsequent legal and personal endeavours independently.

What documentation is necessary for a divorce?

To initiate the divorce process, you must provide a specific set of documents. These required documents encompass:

  • The divorce petition, also referred to as a D8 petition.
  • Your marriage certificate.
  • The applicable court fees or exemption forms, as required.

Is it necessary to have my previous marriage certificate when I intend to get remarried?

To remarry, you will be required to provide either your divorce decree/final order or a certificate of dissolution from your prior marriage. In case you no longer possess a copy of these crucial documents, you can enlist the assistance of your legal representative to request a replacement.

Key Takeaways:

  • To initiate divorce proceedings in England or Wales, you must provide your marriage certificate to the court.
  • Your marriage certificate will be replaced with a Final Order, serving as proof of the legal dissolution of your marriage.
  • Keep the Final Order in a secure place, especially if you plan to remarry in the future.
  • If you've lost your original marriage certificate, you can obtain a replacement by contacting your local Registrar's office for a certified copy at a fee of £11, typically arriving within 3 to 5 working days.
  • Consider the option of obtaining a Certified Copy Marriage Certificate from the UK government's General Register Office (GRO) for £14, but be prepared for a processing time of at least four weeks.
  • If your marriage took place in Scotland, contact the National Records of Scotland (NROS) for an Official Extract from the Register.
  • For marriages in Northern Ireland, get in touch with the General Registry of Northern Ireland (GRONI).
  • Seek legal assistance from Simpson Millars Solicitors for professional guidance and support throughout the process to protect your legal rights and meet your needs.


UK Government. (n.d.). File for divorce. []

GOV.UK. (2021, May 4). Improvements introduced to marriage registration system.

BBC News. (2021, April 28). Domestic abuse: Police ‘must do more’ to protect victims. []

Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

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