A divorce certificate is a one-page document that verifies that the divorce has taken place. It has very basic information but does not describe who got the house or custody of the children. A divorce decree is the final judgment from the divorce court. It will include information about alimony, child support, property division, etc., depending upon the circumstances of your divorce. A divorce decree is part of the divorce record (also called the case file) that includes all the filings, correspondence, orders of the court, and other information. The New Hampshire court system also refers to the divorce decree as a "divorce decree packet" and that includes the vital statistics divorce certificate, the parenting plan, and child support order, if any.
The divorce certificate is available from the New Hampshire Division of Vital Records Administration (DVRA), New Hampshire town or city clerks, or the New Hampshire Superior Court or Family Division. A certified divorce decree is available from the Superior or Family Division courts.
To make things confusing, some sources refer to a divorce decree when they really mean divorce certificate. If all you need to do is prove that you are divorced because you want, for example, to change your name after your divorce or you want to remarry, you need a divorce certificate. But if you want to register the custody orders from your divorce after a move to another state, then you need your divorce decree.
PLEASE NOTE: There are several town websites in New Hampshire that have this wrong. They say you need a certified divorce decree to, for example, remarry. We double-checked with Vital Records and all you need is the divorce certificate. You can use a certified divorce decree if you want to, but you don't need to.
One more thing for out-of-state couples: make sure you have the right kind of certificate. Massachusetts, for example, has a couple of options but the one you need to prove in New Hampshire that you are divorced is the certificate of divorce absolute. Bottom line, call Vital Records to make sure you have what you need.
For a divorce certificate, go to the website of the New Hampshire Division of Vital Records Administration, Obtaining Certified Copies of Vital Records for instructions and forms or contact DVRA at:
Division of Vital Records Administration
N.H. Department of State
9 Ratification Way (formerly 71 South Fruit Street)
Concord, NH 03301-2410
You can also obtain a divorce certificate from your city or town clerk. All cities and towns in New Hampshire participate in the New Hampshire Vital Records Information Network (NHVRIN). This is a statewide database developed and maintained by the Secretary of State's Division of Vital Records Administration. The database allows any town to produce copies of birth, marriage, divorce, and death certificates for births, marriages, divorces, and deaths occurring in any New Hampshire municipality from 1979 (as of this post) to the present with a 6-month time lag. So even if you were living in Pittsburg, New Hampshire at the time of your divorce and you're now living in Pelham, you can still get a copy of your divorce certificate from the Pelham town clerk. If your divorce was less than six months ago, contact the court (see below) for a copy of the certificate.
Visit the town or city clerk for more information or visit their websites. You can find the list of City and Town websites here or just search online for the town or city.
At one time, New Hampshire divorces were granted in Superior Courts. With the creation of the Family Division, jurisdiction over divorces was changed from the Superior Court to the Family Division but you will still see outdated websites that refer only to the Superior Court. You can obtain copies of divorce certificates or divorce decrees (or divorce decree packets) from the court system. There is a form online, NHJB-2205-F Request for Certified Copy of Divorce Decree or Vital Statistics that you can use to make the request. File the Request with the court. The vital statistics form is required in order to remarry and/or to return to maiden name after divorce.
For more information, contact the Trial Court Information Center at 1-855-212-1234 (for calls place from the U.S. or Canada) or 603-223-0392 (outside the U.S. or Canada).
Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.