How Does Divorce Work if I Don’t Have a Marriage Certificate?

23 April 2019

By Family Law Paralegal, Naomi Powell

In order to obtain a divorce in the Courts of England and Wales, you must provide the Court with a copy of your original marriage certificate when you submit your divorce petition. If you do not have the original certificate, because it has been lost or your spouse will not provide it to you, for example, you will need to obtain what is known as a Certified Copy Marriage Certificate.

How to Get a Certified Copy Marriage Certificate

Many Local Councils now have a dedicated page on their website which deals with obtaining certified copy certificates. You will need to go to the website of the Local Authority where your marriage took place, and enter specific information such as the date, location and the full names of you and your spouse. You will have to pay a fee at the time of application, which may vary depending on the Local Authority. In most cases, the Certified Copy Marriage Certificate will then be posted directly to you.

You can also register for a Certified Copy Marriage Certificate with the General Register Office (GRO), either through their website or on the telephone. Again you will be prompted to provide specific details of the marriage. A Certified Copy Marriage Certificate will cost in the region of £15 with the option of a priority postal service which is offered at an additional cost.

If You Didn't Get Married in England or Wales

The information above applies specifically to marriages in England and Wales. If you got married somewhere else, then the process for obtaining a Certified Copy Marriage Certificate will be slightly different.

If your marriage took place in Scotland, you will need to contact the National Records of Scotland (NROS) for what is known as an Official Extract from the Register. Copy certificates will cost in the region £12 and, again, a priority postal service is offered at an additional charge.

If you were married in Northern Ireland, you will need to contact the General Registry of Northern Ireland (GRONI). Copy certificates are charged in the region of £15 each.

If you were married abroad, each country has different regulations and you will need to contact the relevant authorities in order to start the process of obtaining a copy of the marriage certificate. The relevant country's Government Embassy is a good place to start, and many have a system of application via their websites.

However, if you organised your wedding through a recognised tour operator or wedding planner, the chances are they will have a record, and may even be able to assist you in obtaining a copy from the Local Authority in the relevant country.

Please be aware, however, if your marriage certificate is not in English, you must also provide the Court with a certified translation of the marriage certificate. If necessary, we can assist in obtaining a certified translation for you.

In very rare and specific circumstances, the Court may allow the petitioner to give an undertaking (a legal promise) to the Court that they will file the marriage certificate as soon as it is available and, in any event, before decree nisi is pronounced. This might be allowed, for example, where one party is urgently trying to keep the divorce proceedings within the jurisdiction of England & Wales. A reason for this may be due to the other party attempting to issue divorce proceedings abroad first, because the foreign divorce laws will benefit them more favourably.

However, this course of action is extremely rare and is totally at the Court's discretion.

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