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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Q. Is the County Clerk's office closed for lunch?

A. The County Clerk's office is open for business during lunch. Our office is open for processing Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. except for legal holidays.

Topics:

MARRIAGE LICENSES & CEREMONIES

DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP

FICTITIOUS BUSINESS NAME STATEMENTS

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGES

BIRTH AND DEATH CERTIFICATES

WILLS (PROBATE DIVISION)

LIENS, JUDGMENTS, DEEDS


MARRIAGE LICENSES & CEREMONIES

Q. Are blood tests required for a marriage license?

A. No. Blood tests were eliminated in January 1995.

Q. How do I change my legal name?

A. If the name change is due to a marriage, please check the name change requirements of Department of Motor Vehicles and Social Security Administration. All other name changes are handled through the Superior Court at 400 McAllister St.

Q. Where can I obtain a copy of my divorce papers?

A. All divorce-related matters are handled by the Superior Court. Your divorce records are kept in the county in which you filed for divorce. The San Francisco Superior Court is located at 400 McAllister St. (corner of Polk & McAllister)

Q. How do I schedule an appointment to get married at the S.F. County Clerk's office?

A. Appointments may be scheduled in person at our office or online.  For more information, visit reservations.

Q. Can one of your staff serve as a witness for our wedding ceremony?

A. No. County Clerk staff cannot serve as a witness for marriage ceremonies. You are responsible for providing your own witness.

Q. How do I apply for a marriage license?

A. Marriage licenses are issued by prepaid confirmed appointment only. Appointments are available on-line (requires Visa or Mastercard credit card) under "Online Services" or made in person (cash or debit) at the Office of the County Clerk during regular business hours. Appointments may be scheduled up to 90 days in advance.

Q. What is the marriage license fee?

A. The marriage license fee must be paid at the time the marriage license appointment is scheduled on-line (requires Visa or Mastercard credit card) or in-person in the office (cash or debit).  For current fee see Fees.

Q. Do I need to make a marriage license appointment even if I am not having a ceremony performed by your office?

A. Yes. Marriage licenses are issued by prepaid confirmed appointment only.

Q. I already made travel plans, is there a "wait in line" option?

A. No. There is no waiting list option and the "appointment only" policy is enforced. You are strongly advised to secure a confirmed marriage license appointment prior to making any travel or other related arrangements.

Q. I have a marriage license appointment. Do I need a separate appointment if I want your office to perform the ceremony?

A. Yes. A separate ceremony appointment MUST be scheduled.  If you are planning to have our office perform the ceremony, you are strongly advised to check for ceremony appointment availability PRIOR to scheduling your marriage license appointment.  There are no changes, rescheduling, or refunds on any scheduled appointment.  Be absolutely certain about the date and time you are selecting.  Appointments may be scheduled online under "Online Services".

Q. Can a friend or relative perform my marriage ceremony?

A. Yes, please visit our website Deputy Marriage Commissioner for a Day to view the requirements and restrictions.

Q. What is the difference between a PUBLIC and a CONFIDENTIAL marriage license?

A. A public marriage license is a public record. The license allows you to hold the ceremony anywhere within the State of California and you are required to have at least one witness present during the ceremony.

confidential marriage license requires both First Person and Second Person to be living together prior to applying for the license. The ceremony MUST take place in the county where the license is issued and witnesses are not required during the ceremony.  Beginning January 1, 2015, a confidential marriage license allows a ceremony to take place anywhere in the State of California (ASSEMBLY BILL 2747 (CHAPTER 913, STATUTES OF 2014)). The marriage record is only made available to the parties to the marriage.

Both types of marriage licenses are legally valid. Certified copies of confidential marriage licenses are restricted to the parties to the marriage upon proof of identity, sworn statement, and payment of the search fee. If requesting by mail, sworn statement, acknowledgement by a notary public, record search fee, and self-addressed stamped envelope are required.  For more information, visit our website at Certified Copy - Marriage.

Q. Do I need a birth certificate to apply for a marriage license?

A. A certified copy of your birth certificate is only required IF the legal photo ID you present to our staff does NOT contain your FULL legal name. For example, if your legal photo ID shows a middle initial instead of your full middle name, you would be required to present a certified copy of your birth certificate, passport, or social security card displaying the full middle name. Please visit our webpage: Marriage: General Information for information on the requirements for obtaining a marriage license through our office.

Q. Are non-U.S. citizens allowed to marry in San Francisco?

A. Yes. It is important that you visit our webpage: Marriage: General Information to review the requirements for applying for a marriage license from our office. The requirements apply to both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens. There are no additional requirements for non-citizens. Please note that a CERTIFIED copy of a confidential marriage license is not available for 2 weeks or CERTIFIED copy of your public marriage license is not available for 2-4 weeks after the license is received by the County for registration. Please consider the time requirements for a certified copy when planning your marriage license appointment and/or ceremony appointment. We do not expedite the processing of certified copies. It is your responsibility to check your country's requirements for recognizing a foreign marriage in your country. If an apostille is required by your country, you must purchase a certified copy of your marriage license to submit to the Secretary of State for preparation of an apostille. Please visit the Secretary of State's website at http://www.sos.ca.gov for requirements, fee, processing times, and address.

Q. My fiancée is not a U.S. citizen. Are there special requirements for my fiancée?

A. No. It is important that you visit our visit our webpage: Marriage: General Information to review the requirements for applying for a marriage license from our office. The requirements apply to both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens. There are no additional requirements for non-citizens. Please note that a CERTIFIED copy of a confidential marriage license is not available for 2 weeks or CERTIFIED copy of your public marriage license is not available for 2-4 weeks after the license is received by the County for registration. Please consider the time requirements for a certified copy when planning your marriage license appointment and/or ceremony appointment. We do not expedite the processing of certified copies. It is your responsibility to check your country's requirements for recognizing a foreign marriage in your country. If an apostille is required by your country, you must purchase a certified copy of your marriage license to submit to the Secretary of State for preparation of an apostille. Please visit the Secretary of State's website at http://www.sos.ca.gov for requirements, fee, processing times, and address. Our office does not have any information or answers to questions related to immigration issues. It is your responsibility to follow any established legal requirements and take any necessary actions in order for your fiancée to stay in the country legally. Immigration and fiancée visa questions need to be addressed directly with the Department of Homeland Security.

Q. To be legally married, do we need to have a marriage ceremony or can we just apply for the marriage license?

A. California law requires an unmarried couple to purchase a California issued marriage license and have a marriage ceremony in the county where the license was issued (if confidential) or anywhere in the State of California (if public).  Beginning January 1, 2015, a confidential marriage license allows a ceremony to take place anywhere in the State of California (ASSEMBLY BILL 2747 (CHAPTER 913, STATUTES OF 2014)).  The ceremony must be performed by a person who is authorized by law to solemnize marriages in California within 90 days from the date the license is issued You may find categories of authorized persons to solemnize marriage in California Family Code, Section 400.

Q. Are we required to have our marriage ceremony in City Hall?

A. No. If you purchased a PUBLIC marriage license, you may hold your ceremony anywhere within the State of California. If you purchased a CONFIDENTIAL marriage license, you must hold the ceremony in the same county where the license was issued.  Beginning January 1, 2015, a confidential marriage license allows a ceremony to take place anywhere in the State of California (ASSEMBLY BILL 2747 (CHAPTER 913, STATUTES OF 2014)). The ceremony must be performed by a person who is authorized by law to solemnize marriages in California within 90 days from the date the license is issued You may find categories of authorized persons to solemnize marriage in California Family Code, Section 400.

Q. How many guests may we bring to our marriage ceremony performed through your office?

A. Six (6) guests are allowed per couple. Included in the 6 guests are your witnesses and/or photographer.

Q. Are witnesses required for the ceremony?

A. If you purchased a PUBLIC marriage license, you are required to have one witness present during the ceremony. If your ceremony is being performed by our office, our office does not provide witnesses. It is your responsibility to provide a witness. If you purchased a CONFIDENTIAL marriage license, witnesses are NOT required.

Q. May I bring a professional photographer to my ceremony?

A. Yes. You may bring a professional photographer. Please note, however, that each ceremony is allotted a maximum of 10 minutes only. Your photographer may take photos during the ceremony. Immediately following your ceremony, the area must be cleared for the other couples waiting to get married before and/or after your ceremony. You are welcome to take pictures in other parts of the building. Please respect each couple's ceremony and their enjoyment of the space during their ceremony.

Q. I am getting married in another county but live in San Francisco. Can I purchase the marriage license in San Francisco?

A. Yes. If you choose come to our office, you must purchase a PUBLIC marriage license for a ceremony being held outside of San Francisco county. You may purchase a marriage license from any California county. Please note that your marriage record will be a permanent record in the county where you purchased it. If you purchase a CONFIDENTIAL marriage license, the ceremony must take place in the county where the marriage license was issued.  Beginning January 1, 2015, a confidential marriage license allows a ceremony to take place anywhere in the State of California (ASSEMBLY BILL 2747 (CHAPTER 913, STATUTES OF 2014)).

Q. How do I change my legal name after marriage?

A. Your name does not automatically change after you are married. If the name change is due to a marriage, please check the name change requirements of Department of Motor Vehicles and Social Security Administration. All other name changes are handled through the Superior Court at 400 McAllister St. Once you legally change your name with the appropriate agencies, you may notify other entities of your new legal name (i.e. passport agency, employer, banks, credit cards). Please note that your name on the marriage record will not change. The marriage record is a  snapshot of the personal facts of both parties at the time they applied for the marriage license.

Q. I recently got married and I still have not received a certified copy of my marriage license.

A. A certified copy of your marriage license is NOT sent to you automatically. When you applied for the marriage license, you were provided with a request form and/or instructions to purchase a certified copy. If you no longer have or did not receive the request form and wish to purchase a certified copy of your marriage record, please go to the following link Certified Copies of Marriage Licenses.

Q. How do I purchase a certified copy of my marriage license?

A. Please visit the following link for information and instructions on purchasing Certified Copies of Marriage Licenses.

Q. We got married in a foreign country. How do we register our marriage in California?

A. Foreign marriage certificates cannot be recorded/registered in California. If you need to establish a record of the marriage in California, you may file a petition in Superior Court to establish a Court Order Delayed Certificate of Marriage. Additional information can be found at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/birthdeathmar/Documents/CourtOrderDelayedMarriagePAMPHLET-(01-14)-MERGED.pdf

Q. If I am deputized to perform marriages for a day, do I have to perform the marriage in the county I was deputized in?

A. No. The authority of a commissioner or deputy commissioner of civil marriages to solemnize marriages extends throughout the state. However, if the couple purchases a confidential marriage license, the marriage ceremony may only take place in the county where the license was issued.  Beginning January 1, 2015, a confidential marriage license allows a ceremony to take place anywhere in the State of California (ASSEMBLY BILL 2747 (CHAPTER 913, STATUTES OF 2014)).  The deputy for a day program varies and may not be available in all counties.

Q. Does a deputized commissioner of civil marriages have to be a California resident?

A. No. Family Code, Section 401 contains no requirement that a deputized commissioner of civil marriages be a California resident. Out-of-state or out-of-country priests, ministers, or clergy persons may perform marriages in California if they are ordained or invested by a denomination.

Q. Where do I register to perform marriages in California?

A. The laws of the State of California make it unnecessary for persons performing marriages to file credentials with the clerk of the court or with anyone else. The county and state are removed from any responsibility for verification of credentials. The State does not maintain a central registry of members of the clergy. Any such concern for verification is totally at the discretion of the parties to the marriage.

Q. What authorization do I need to perform a marriage in California?

A. In California, it is the ordination or investment by the denomination that gives each clergy member the authority to perform the marriage rite. Family Code, Sections 400-402 are the statutes pertaining to persons authorized to solemnize a marriage in California.

Q. What statutes do I need to know to perform a marriage in California?

A. The marriage officiant who performs the marriage ceremony must know the California laws regarding the performance of a marriage and the requirements for officiants. Family Code, Sections 420-425 are the statutes pertaining to the performance of a marriage in California. Please visit California Legislative Information for the full Family Code sections.

Q. Can Captains of the Salvation Army perform marriages in California?

A. Yes. Captains of the Salvation Army are permitted to perform marriages in California.

Q. Can the captain of a ship solemnize a California marriage?

A. It depends. Ships' captains have no authority to solemnize California marriages unless they fall into one of the categories listed under Family Code, Section 400-401.

Q. Can a Medicine Man perform marriages?

A. Yes. Native American religions are recognized as " denominations." A religious leader or a Shaman is authorized to perform marriages. If the title of the religious leader is Medicine Man, then he is eligible to perform marriages.

Q. How soon after the wedding ceremony do I need to return the marriage license?

A. Ten (10) days. Family Code, Section 359(e)(f) states,  "The certificate of registry shall be returned by the person solemnizing the marriage to the county recorder of the county in which the license was issued within 10 days after the ceremony."  As used in this division, "returned" means presented to the appropriate person in person, or postmarked, before the expiration of the specified time period.

Q. When is a duplicate marriage license issued?

A. According to Family Code, Section 360, " (a) If a certificate of registry of marriage is lost or destroyed after the marriage ceremony but before it is returned to the county recorder, the person solemnizing the marriage, in order to comply with Section 359, shall obtain a duplicate certificate of registry by filing an affidavit setting forth the facts with the county clerk of the county in which the license was issued. (b) The duplicate certificate of registry may not be issued later than one year after issuance of the original license and shall be returned by the person solemnizing the marriage to the county recorder within 10 days after issuance." Contact the County Clerk in the county where the license was issued to find out the cost and process for issuing duplicate marriage licenses.

Q. Do I have to review the marriage license prior to solemnizing the marriage?

A. Yes. The marriage license must be reviewed by the marriage officiant prior to solemnizing the marriage. Any person who solemnizes a marriage without first reviewing the license is guilty of a misdemeanor (Penal Code, Section 360).

Q. What statutes pertain to confidential marriages?

A. Please visit California Legislative Information for the pertinent Family Code, Sections 500-511.

Q. Can I have more than two witnesses sign on my public marriage license?

A. No. The public marriage license requires the signature of one witness, and if desired, has a place for an additional witness. No more than TWO witnesses may sign on the public marriage license. Only one signature per line is allowed. No witnesses may sign on the confidential marriage license.

Q. Can an ordained minister from another state perform a marriage ceremony in California?

A. Yes. If they are authorized under Family Code, Section 400, out-of-state ministers may perform marriages.

Q Does the US Supreme Court’s decision on Prop 8 reinstate my 2004 San Francisco Same Sex marriage?

A. 2004 San Francisco Same Sex marriages were voided by the Court and are not valid.  The US Supreme Court's decision on Prop. 8 does not reinstate those voided 2004 same sex marriages.  Same sex couples are welcome to marry in San Francisco  Marriage license and/or marriage ceremony appointment(s) and payment of current fees will be required.

Q I was married in 2008 prior to Prop 8 going into effect banning same sex marriages in California.  Does the US Supreme Court’s decision on Prop 8 have any affect to my marriage?

A. California Family Code 308 states: (a) A marriage contracted outside this state that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in this state.

(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a marriage between two persons of the same sex contracted outside this state that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in this state if the marriage was contracted prior to November 5, 2008.

(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, two persons of the same sex who contracted a marriage on or after November 5, 2008, that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they derive from the California Constitution, the United States Constitution, statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses with the sole exception of the designation of “marriage.”

(Amended by Stats. 2009, Ch. 625, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2010.)

Q What if we are currently State Registered Domestic Partners (SRDP)?

A. If the couple is currently in a SRDPs together, they are not required to dissolve their current SRDP.  By law, we cannot provide legal advice.  If you are unsure on how to proceed given the above information, you should consult a private attorney.


DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP

Q. What is the difference between registering my domestic partnership with the City and County of San Francisco vs. the State of California.

A. San Francisco's local domestic partnership registration is available to unmarried couples age 18 and older who are living together. The registration is a basic agreement where they agree to provide food and shelter for each other. City and County of San Francisco employees must register their domestic partnership with the Office of the County Clerk in order to designate their domestic partner as beneficiary to receive retirement benefits. Couples planning to have a commitment ceremony performed by our office must file their domestic partnership registration with the County Clerk.

California's State Registered Domestic Partners program is separate and distinct from San Francisco's local domestic partnership registration. To register through the State's program, couples must meet eligibility requirements. For complete information on the California State Registered Domestic Partners program, please visit the Secretary of State's website at http://www.sos.ca.gov/dpregistry. Questions on the State Registered Domestic Partner program must be addressed directly to the Secretary of State.

The San Francisco local program and California State program carry different requirements and benefits. Couples may register under both programs if they meet the requirements and determine it is beneficial to their personal situation. It is your responsibility to determine the program(s) that is(are) beneficial to your personal situation. If you are uncertain regarding how each program will impact you, you may wish to consult your private attorney.

Q. How do I end my San Francisco domestic partnership?

A. If your original domestic partnership registration was filed with our the Office of the San Francisco County Clerk, you may file the Notice of Ending Domestic Partnership in person or by mail. The form is available through the Domestic Partners webpage. Complete the form in its entirety, sign the form, and indicate the date and address of when and where a copy of the Notice was sent to your former partner. No fee is required to file a San Francisco Notice of Ending Domestic Partnership with the County Clerk. A certified copy of the filed Notice of Ending Domestic Partnership is available for $8.00. To purchase a certified copy, you may come in person or request by mail. If requesting by mail, include in your request that you are purchasing a " certified copy of a Notice of Ending DP" , the names of both partners, payment (CA personal check or money order), and self-addressed stamped envelope. If you registered your domestic partnership through a notary public, you must file the Notice of Ending through a notary public, provide a copy to the witness who witnessed the original registration and to your former partner. For additional information, visit the Domestic Partners webpage.  If are ending a California State Registered Domestic Partnership, please review the legal requirements on the Secretary of State's website at http://www.sos.ca.gov/dpregistry.


FICTITIOUS BUSINESS NAME STATEMENTS

Q. Does filing my Fictitious Business Name Statement prevent anyone else from using the business name I've registered?

A. No. The County Clerk is mandated to accept and file any fictitious business name statement completed correctly and submitted with the appropriate fee. The County Clerk does not verify or check the availability of fictitious business name prior to filing. It is the responsibility of the registrant(s) filing the statement to conduct his/her/their due diligence through all sources to ensure he/she/they is(are) not infringing on another's rights. When a dispute arises out of the use of a fictitious business name, it is a legal matter that may be resolved through the judicial system and not handled by our office. A searchable fictitious business name index is maintained and available for all fictitious business name statements filed in San Francisco County at the Fictitious Business Names webpage.

Q. Am I required to go to the Tax Collector's office if I am not doing business yet and I only want to " reserve" the Fictitious Business Name?

A. Yes. Any registrant filing a Fictitious Business Name Statement must first establish a business tax registration account with the Tax Collector's Office. A receipt and/or original Temporary Verification of Registration (TVR) will be issued by the Tax Collector that is required to be presented at the time the Fictitious Business Name statement is filed with the County Clerk. It is the responsibility of the registrant to determine whether it is required to file a fictitious business name statement. Consult an attorney for legal advice. County Clerk staff is prohibited by law from providing legal advice. For profit and non-profit registrants are required to pay the appropriate fictitious business name statement filing fees. No exceptions and no refunds for statements filed.

Q. If our business is a non-profit organization and exempt from paying taxes, are we still required to go to the Tax Collector's Office?

A. Yes. Any registrant filing a Fictitious Business Name Statement must first establish a business tax registration account with the Tax Collector's Office. A receipt and/or original Temporary Verification of Registration (TVR) will be issued by the Tax Collector that is required to be presented at the time the Fictitious Business Name statement is filed with the County Clerk. If the Tax Collector determines the business is exempt from taxes, the Tax Collector will issue a TVR. The original TVR must be presented to the County Clerk's office with the Fictitious Business Name Statement for filing. It is the responsibility of the registrant to determine whether it is required to file a fictitious business name statement. Consult an attorney for legal advice. County Clerk staff is prohibited by law from providing legal advice. For profit and non-profit registrants are required to pay the appropriate fictitious business name statement filing fees. No exceptions and no refunds for statements filed.

Q. I just moved and need to make an address change on my fictitious business name statement. How do I update the address?

A. Pursuant to the California Business & Professions code section 17900 et seq., a fictitious business name statement is valid for 5 years from the date of filing when all legal requirements are satisfied. If there is a change in fact on the statement, other than the registrant's residential address, the statement expires 40 days from the date the fact changed. If the business address has changed you are required to update your business tax registration certificate with the Treasurer-Tax Collector's Office, located at City Hall, Room 140, and then file a new fictitious business name statement, pay the appropriate fees, and publish the statement.

Q. I missed the 30-day publication deadline for my FBN statement. Can I apply for an extension?

A. No. California Business & Professions code section 17917, requires the FBN statement to be published within 30 days from the date it was filed with our office. If the first legal notice did not appear in the newspaper within 30 days of the FBN filing date, you are required to file a new fictitious business name statement, pay the appropriate fees, and publish the current FBN statement.

Q. How do I renew my fictitious business name statement?

A. Pursuant to the California Business & Professions code section 17900 et seq., a fictitious business name statement is valid for 5 years from the date of filing when all legal requirements are satisfied and the facts on the statement are current. If there is no change in facts on the FBN statement due to expire or expired less than 40 days, a new fictitious business name statement needs to be filed and the required filing fee paid. Publication in a newspaper would not be required. If there is a change in fact on the FBN statement or the statement has expired more than 40 days, a new fictitious business name statement needs to be filed, required filing fee paid, and FBN statement published in a newspaper within 30 days of filing the FBN statement. For information on the publication requirements, visit Fictitious Business Names webpage.


DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGES

Q. How do I get divorced?

A. Divorce matters are handled by the Superior Court. For more information, visit their website at www.sfsuperiorcourt.org. The Court's customer service number is (415) 551-3802. They do not have e-mail access. However, you may mail correspondence to: Superior Court, 400 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 .


BIRTH AND DEATH CERTIFICATES

Q. How do I get a copy of a RECENT birth or death certificate? 

A. Newborn certificates are available approximately 4 weeks after the birth date and birth years up to 3 years old and death certificates where event date is up to 3 years old are available from the San Francisco Department of Public Health located at 101 Grove St. Please contact them at 415-554-2700 for fees and office hours. For a birth or death that took place outside of San Francisco, please contact the County Recorder in the county where the event took place.

Q. How do I get a copy of an older birth or death certificate?

A. San Francisco County Clerk can only issue certificates for: Individuals born in San Francisco County more than 3 years ago and back to 1906 or Individuals deceased in San Francisco County more than 3 years ago and back to 1906.  For instructions, please visit our webpage Birth & Death Certificates.  For a birth or death that took place outside of San Francisco, please contact the County Recorder in the county where the event took place.

WILLS (PROBATE DIVISION)

Q. Where do I find a copy of a will that has been filed?

A. If a will has been filed, it is a record of the Superior Court's, Probate Division. For more information, visit their website at www.sfsuperiorcourt.org. The Court's customer service number is (415) 551-3802. They do not have e-mail access. However, you may send correspondence to: Superior Court, 400 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102.

LIENS, JUDGMENTS, DEEDS

Q. I have a Tax Lien or Judgment showing on my credit report. How do I obtain a copy of this record?

A. The Office of the County Clerk does not handle matters related to liens or judgments. These documents are recorded with the County Recorder. For information, visit their office's website at www.sfgov.org/assessor or contact them via e-mail with additional questions at assessor@sfgov.org.

Q. What is the fee for recording a deed?

A. The Office of the County Clerk does not handle real property documents. Deeds are recorded by the County Recorder. For information, visit their office's website at www.sfgov.org/assessor or contact them via e-mail with additional questions at assessor@sfgov.org.

 

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., City Hall #168 SF CA 94102-4678 - Map Directions

 

 
Last updated: 12/22/2014 1:22:31 PM