How to Find New York Marriage Records
Marriage is known as the union between two loving partners. It is also a legally binding agreement between two consenting adults. This agreement, which is initiated by the purchase of a marriage license, states the obligations and duties of parties of the marriage, including any obligations applicable to children or other family members. Similar to other vital records (such as birth records, death records and divorce certificates), New York government agencies keep track of marriages by recording them with the New York Vital Records Office as well as various County Clerk Offices.
Records that serve as proof of a marital union come in different forms and hold different purposes, and knowing the distinction between each type of record can help when attempting to obtain a New York marriage record. Since marriage records contain personal records and sensitive data, only uncertified copies are made available to the public; these are regarded as New York public marriage records. On the other hand, confidential marriage records are restricted from public access and made available to the subjects of the record as well as persons who are authorized by a court order.
Are New York Marriage Records Public?
Yes. However, while New York Marriage Records are public, they represent some of the most difficult records to obtain due to the personal nature of the information within. Government organizations often offer marriage verification letters rather than original marriage records because marriage records must remain intact and unchanged with regard to the people involved in the marriage. If changes need to be made, these records are critical to that procedure.
Family Court Records also include marriage and dissolution of marriage records. These records contain personal information of those involved, and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this, both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records and may not be available through government sources or third-party public record websites.
How to Find Out if Someone is Married in New York
To find out if someone is married in New York, an individual can start by querying the town or city clerk that issued the New York marriage license. If the marriage license was purchased in New York City, the appropriate office is the New York City Clerk's Office in the borough where the license was bought. The New York City Clerk keeps marriage records from 1950 to the present date. However, if the marriage occurred outside the five boroughs, the place of inquiry is the New York State Department of Health or the town or city clerk that administered the marriage license (for example, the City of Syracuse's Clerk's Office).
However, there is a caveat to obtaining a marriage record in New York: custodians of marriage records do not release marriage records less than 50 years from the present date to parties other than the bride, groom, or spouse. Any other person who requests such marriage record searches in New York must establish a "judicial or other proper purpose." For example, when an attorney requests the record to be used as evidence in a legal proceeding or when a third party acquires written consent from one of the spouses.
Notably, a New York marriage record custodian can release a marriage record to a non-spouse. However, the marriage license must be dated 50 years or older from the present date, and the spouses must be deceased.
How to Check Marriage Status Online in New York
The easiest way to check marriage status online in New York is by utilizing the website of the county clerk or city clerk in the judicial district where the marriage license was issued or marriage occurred. To use any of these databases, the requestor will be required to provide the full name of the spouses as well as the license issuance and marriage dates, the marriage license number and birth date of the parties involved to expedite the search. It should be noted however, that persons seeking to obtain a marriage record for official functions will be required to obtain a certified copy (usually with a raised seal), and an online search is not suitable for this request.
What are New York Marriage Records?
A New York State marriage record differs from a marriage certificate in that it is the most complete record of a legal marital union between two people. A marriage record includes all information included in a marriage license and marriage certificate but has more authority than both in the court of law. The documents held inside these records can be used for different purposes.
Both government websites and organizations may offer methods to find marriage and divorce records. Similarly, third-party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third-party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and dissolution of marriage (divorce) records are considered highly private and are often sealed, hence the availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
Where to Find Free New York Marriage Records
It is difficult for uninvolved parties to conduct marriage record searches in New York. Since 1880, marriage records have been held and maintained by New York Vital Records. The records available for request, marriage certificates, are not complete because the information contained is still very general. Although it is not complete, it is still a valid form of proof that a marriage has occurred. A New York marriage certificate contains the names of the two parties, the date of the marriage, and the city or county where the marriage happened. These types of records are available by either the Office of New York Vital Records or from the city clerk that issued the marriage license.
How to Change Your Name After Marriage in New York
Newlyweds can start using their spouse's name immediately after marriage. However, if they want to legally change their name after marriage in New York, they must go through the appropriate steps.
The first step in effecting a name change after marriage is obtaining the marriage license. Couples apply for marriage licenses before their wedding day and usually obtain them after the day. Newlyweds will need certified copies of their licenses to navigate the name change. They can obtain certified copies of their marriage license from the clerk's office in the county where the wedding happened. These copies typically cost $10 each.
The next step for the person changing their name after marriage is to notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) about their new name. This step is essential because the person cannot change their name with other government offices unless they have a new social security card. To make this change, the newlywed must download and complete a new Social Security card application, including their given name and married name. They may attach a certified copy of their marriage license, SSN, and photo ID and submit the application to their nearest social security office in person or by mail. The SSA will issue them another card in two to three weeks.
Once the newlywed has their new social security card, they should apply to their local DMV for a new driver's license. They will need to make an appointment and bring their current driver's license, new social security card, and a certified copy of their marriage certificate.
What are New York Marriage Certificates?
A New York marriage Certificate is different from an entire New York State Marriage Record or a simple New York State Marriage License. A certificate acts as proof that a marriage has occurred between two people. It is not a complete document containing the marriage license and marriage record.
How Do I Get My Marriage Certificate in New York?
To obtain one’s own marriage certificate in New York, walk-in, mail-in, and even phone ordering services are available at the New York State Vital Records Office. Those who are eligible to access these records are either of the spouses, the children of the spouses, or anyone who has a New York State Court Order signed by a judge. Identification also must be given by the requesting party. This includes the following forms of identification:
- Driver's license
- State-issued non-driver photo-ID card
- U.S. Military-issued photo-ID
If those forms of identification are not available to the requesting parties, they may submit two of the following:
- Recent utility or telephone bill
- A letter from any government agency from within the last six months
To order a copy of a certified marriage certificate, download the application form and mail to
New York State Department of Health
Vital Records Certification Unit
P.O. Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220-2602
Alternatively, walk-in services are available and often result in same-day service.
For phone orders, the fee is $45.00, payable by MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express, or Electronic Check. Walk-in orders have a fee of $45.00, payable by cash, check, or money order. They do not accept debit or credit cards. Mail-in order fees are $30.00 and can be paid by personal check or money order. All checks can be made payable to the NYS Department of Health.
How Do I Obtain a Copy of My Marriage Certificate in New York?
By visiting the appropriate local city clerk's office in person or by mailing in a completed application form, it is possible to obtain a copy of one’s own marriage certificate in New York State. Individuals can also request their New York marriage certificates from the New York Vital Records Office if the marriage license was purchased outside New York City. The office accepts in-person, mail, and online orders. Mail requests require the inquirer to submit a form that can be downloaded from the vital statistics office's website and pay $30 per copy by personal check, certified check, or postal money order. Meanwhile, orders for online marriage certificates are processed through a third-party vendor and cost $45 per copy plus an $8 vendor processing fee for each transaction.
What are New York Marriage Licenses?
A New York Marriage License is an official document that soon-to-be-wed couples must obtain to hold a marriage ceremony in New York. Generally, to obtain this license, couples must satisfy some legal requirements, including not being presently married, not related to each other, being of legal age (18 years of age or older), and submitting proof of age and identity.
Are Prenups Public Record in New York?
No. The New York Freedom of Information Law, FOIL, does not mention prenups (prenuptial agreements) as one of the many documents that remain open to the public's examination. By the FOIL's definition, a "public record" is a state or local government record. Prenups are private agreements that spouses enter before marriage to determine what happens to their property, assets, or debts in case of a divorce or death. Interested parties can read more about New York prenuptial agreements (see sample) on the New York City Bar Association's website.