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


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

This is because your marriage certificate is replaced with your Certificate of Decree Absolute, 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 Decree Absolute 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.

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.

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).

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 recognizing 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 Change my Paper Marriage Certificate to and Electronic Version?

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.

What If I Got Married Abroad?

If you got married abroad, and have lost your marriage certificate, then don’t think that is the ‘end all’. You should:

  1. In the first instance, contact the Embassy or the relevant authorities in the country you were married. They can tell you what steps you need to take to get a certified copy of the certificate.
  2. If your marriage certificate is not in English then you will need to get it translated into English and certified by a Notary republic.

We know how daunting it can be to apply for a divorce and the paperwork can be time-consuming. If you’re struggling to find the marriage certificate because you were married overseas, our Divorce Solicitors can help you.

What If I Still Can’t Find My Marriage Certificate?

You’ll need to apply for special permission from the Court to file your divorce proceedings without it. And you need to do this before you send the divorce petition (application).

The Court will need to be satisfied that you have exhausted all avenues of finding your original marriage certificate or of getting a certified copy of it, before they will give you permission to go ahead with your divorce.

We understand you may find this added step frustrating, but you can’t start your divorce without first overcoming the hurdle of the marriage certificate. If you’re not sure how to prove to the Court that you’ve tried everything, we can give you legal advice or apply for special permission for you.

Our expert Divorce Solicitors will do everything they can to help take away any stress and pressure you may be feeling in the divorce process.

For initial legal advice call our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors

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Simpson Millar Solicitors are a national law firm with over 500 staff and offices in Billingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Catterick, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.