Pursuant to California’s Public Records Act, any Californian has the right to access public information maintained by local and state government agencies, including the Department of Justice. In California, vital records are housed in the Office of the Vital Statistics which operates under the Department of Health. California public records include documents of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, deaths, and even criminal and arrest records.
Conversely, there are certain records in California that cannot just be obtained by anyone who wishes to. Criminal records and arrest, for instance, can only be accessed by legitimate law enforcement agencies, authorized applicant agencies, and those individuals who personally own the criminal history information. In case of background checks, certified copies of criminal or arrest records may not be available as request from third parties for such records will not be processed. Thus, for genealogical purposes and background checks, one may have to settle for an informational copy instead.
In requesting for a record, a written request is no longer needed according to California’s Public Records Act. You can actually start by making an informal request over the telephone. However, id the agency information officer cannot grant your request with the method utilized, he should be able to provide you with the necessary steps for making a formal request. A formal request entails filling out an application or request form for each vital or court record you wish to obtain. Such forms can be downloaded online or directly from the aforementioned agencies’ websites. You have to fill out such forms in its entirety with all the significant details asked.
For birth record requests, you must provide the full name of the person, date of birth, place of birth, and the name of the parents. For death certificate requests, you have to input in the request form the complete legal name of the decedent, sex, date of birth, date and county where the death transpired, name of spouse and that of the parents. For marriage certificate requests, you have to provide all the personal details about the couple, date and county where they tied the knot, and the county where the marriage license was issued. For divorce decree requests, you must input the significant details of the husband and the wife, the date of the separation, and the county where the divorce was filed and approved. For criminal history information requests, you have to secure a live scan form from the Department of Justice, fill it out with your personal details, and submit it together with an image of your live scan fingerprints.
Payment must be through check or money order made payable to either the Department of Health or to the Department of Justice; and should be submitted along with the application or request form. A copy of a death certificate costs $20; a death certificate is worth $16; criminal record costs $25; a public marriage certificate costs $14 while a divorce certificate costs $13. Birth and death records that date back to 1905 take approximately 7 weeks to be processed; whereas those recorded from 1969 to present only take 4 weeks. For marriage and divorce records, on the other hand, the processing time can exceed 6 months. Unfortunately, there is no way to hasten this as the Office of the Vital Statistics cannot accommodate expedited requests.
Government records can actually be obtained over the web. Several online record providers proffer the same services such as record reviews for only a minimal fee. Some record providers do not require a fee though. However, if you are the kind of person who wishes not only to cut costs but also ensures quality of the results, you can choose the independent service provider that charges a minimal fee but yields accurate and comprehensive records.