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How Long to Keep Divorce Papers-in California

How Long to Keep Divorce Papers in California?

Divorces are emotionally draining periods for those going through them. So, it is unsurprising that most people want to get rid of every reminder of their ex-spouse, divorce documents included. But you may wonder how long to keep divorce papers in California.

We will explore this below, so keep reading and find out if you should and which document to keep.

How Long to Keep Divorce Papers in California
Source: Photo Contributor: Daniel Jedzura

How Long to Keep Divorce Papers in California 

After a divorce you may want to rid your home of any memories or remnants of your divorce and start this new period of your life, but they contain vital legal information that should not be disposed of.

If you want advice on where to store your divorce papers, our divorce lawyers can help. Moore Family Law Group attorneys are family law experts with long experience in the inner workings of the California legal system.

Understanding California’s Guidelines on Divorce Document Retention

In California, like in most states in the United States, it is prudent to retain documents like your marriage license and divorce decree indefinitely.

Marriage license and certificate

The marriage license and certificate are vital as they prove that you and your ex-husband were married once. If you and your spouse have been married for ten years or more you may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-partner’s record. You can look into the eligibility requirements on the site.

Decree of divorce 

This is an essential document in the divorce procedure. Once your marriage is formally over, you will receive your divorce decree

The divorce order will include essential details about the terms of your divorce, such as the division of assets, alimony, child support, and custody agreements, among other things. 

Your divorce agreement copy must bear a court seal, which attests to its legitimacy. You should keep a copy of your divorce decree as it is essentially a settlement agreement between you and your ex-spouse. 

For example, if you need to make some changes to your divorce decree later on due to financial changes, it is good to have the document on hand to refer back to.

Also, if you change your name later, you might need a sealed copy for the Department of Motor Vehicles or the SSA. 

Expert Recommendations for Document Retention

Essential documents to retain


Division of assets is one of the most crucial aspects of the divorce procedure. Courts will frequently assess all marital assets during a divorce and distribute them equally from there. To assign worth to them, you may have completed several assessments for some of your assets, such as your house, jewelry, enterprises, and more. 

Keep a duplicate copy of the completed appraisals in the future so you have it on hand if needed.

Financial records

You likely compiled a list of all your assets during the divorce proceedings.

You also probably exchanged other documents related to your divorce, such as credit card statements, tax records, and more. It is definitely worthwhile to save all of these for your records.

Child support and spousal support payment records

If you and your ex-spouse share a child/children and your settlement agreement specifies that you will receive a certain amount of money as child support, you should keep copies of the checks or payments. You should do the same if you are receiving spousal support. If your ex-spouse misses any payments, you will have documentation of payments and amounts missed. 

Child support and spousal support payment records
Source: Photo Contributor: fizkes

Factors Influencing Retention Periods

Tax reasons 

Divorce may cause a significant change in a person’s financial and living situation. For example, child support alone requires significant documentation to prove a portion of income goes towards child support. For tax reasons, you should also keep the documents containing the change of assets and debts during the divorce process. 

Issues regarding the settlement agreement 

Besides the divorce decree, it’s also wise to keep your settlement agreement. Your settlement agreement will likely contain important information including the exact details of your custody agreement if you have children. The document will be useful should your ex-spouse violate the agreement.

Legal considerations and statute of limitations 

Some records like tax, intellectual property, financial, and major asset records in California are permanently retained. This means that even if you do not keep these documents after your divorce, you may request a copy from the county clerk’s office.

Best Practices for Organizing and Storing Divorce Documents

Document organization

It is always wise to keep your important documents well-organized and in one place. If you prefer not keeping physical copies of documents, you may be able to keep some of them as digital copies.

More important documents such as your marriage license and divorce decree, it’s best you keep physical copies should you need to produce documentation related to your divorce.

Secure storage methods

The documents from which you keep physical copies should be stored safely. Physical copies of important documents should be kept in a fireproof lockbox in your home. You can store them in a safe and secure location at your bank. 

For more help on secure storage and what documents to keep, you can contact us, and one of our Moore Family Law Group attorneys will be there to help. 

Secure storage methods
Source: Photo Contributor: Nirat.pix


How long to keep divorce documents in California? We advise keeping the documents, such as your divorce decree and marriage license, indefinitely, preferably as physical copies but also in digital formats.

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