Are Washington Vital Records Open to the Public?
Vital records are generally considered public records and thus open to the Washington public. However, according to the Revised Code of Washington Chapter 42.56.365, following an amendment effective from January 1, 2021, all vital records shall no longer be subject to the Washington Public Records Act, which grants any member of the public the right to inspect and copy these records. In addition, government staff may only disclose information included in vital records to parties authorized by the Washington State Department of Health.
What are Vital Records in Washington?
Vital records comprise a collection of state or country-maintained documents that establish one's identity, familial relationships, and eligibility for specific rights and privileges, such as inheritance or government assistance. They include birth records, death certificates, marriage records, and divorce statements. These records play a crucial role in public health surveillance and research initiatives in Washington.
What Information Do I Need to Search for Washington Vital Records Online?
Parties who wish to search for Washington vital records online will be required to provide the following information:
- Name(s) of the registrant(s) on the record
- The date the vital event occurred
- The city or county the event took place
How Do I Obtain Washington Vital Records?
Parties who wish to obtain copies of vital records in the state of Washington are generally not required to provide any form of identification. However, some vital records contain confidential sections. Therefore, the only persons who can access these types of documents are the persons named on the record, their relatives, or anyone with a court order. In addition, requestors who wish to obtain copies of vital records for research purposes or statistical studies may need to submit a request letter.
Publicly available vital records are managed and disseminated by some third-party aggregate sites. These sites are generally not limited by geographical record availability and may serve as a convenient jump-off point when researching specific or multiple records. However, third-party sites are not government-sponsored. As such, record availability may differ from official channels. To find a record using the search engines on third-party sites, the requesting party will be required to provide:
- The location of the record in question including the city, county, or state where the case was filed.
- The name of someone involved providing it is not a juvenile.
Requesters must provide relevant information associated with the record to conduct an online search for vital records. Some of these include:
- The registrants' name
- Date of the event
- Place of the event
- City or county where the life event occurred
- First and last name of parents
- Presiding judge (for marriage or divorce records)
What's the Difference Between a Certified Record and an Informational Copy?
Generally, the main difference between a certified copy of a record and an informational copy of the same record is that the certified copy of a record is considered the same as the original record and can serve legal purposes. In contrast, an informational copy may not serve as a legal document. Therefore, with effect from January 1, 2021, under RCW Chapter.70.58A.530, certified copies of vital records in the state of Washington may only be issued to qualified applicants, which include the registrant, the registrant's spouse or domestic partner, children or step-children, parents or step-parents, siblings, grandparents, great-grandparents, grandchildren, legal guardians, legal representatives, and authorized governmental bodies.
Are Washington Marriage Records Public Information?
Yes. Marriage records in Washington are presently open records and may be accessed by any member of the public.
How Do I Obtain Marriage Records in Washington?
The Washington State Department of Health maintains and issues records of all marriages that occurred in the state from 1968 to date. These public marriage records are indexed and accessible at the Washington State Library. Interested parties who wish to obtain copies of these records in person or via mail will be required to complete a marriage certificate application. In-person requests should go to:
Washington State Department of Health
Center for Health Statistics
Town Center 1
101 Israel Road SE
Tumwater, WA 98501
How to Get a Washington Marriage Certificate
Obtain a Washington Marriage Certificate from the Washington State Department of Health or the county auditor's office where the marriage occurred. Persons eligible to access Washington marriage certificates include the bride, groom, legal representative, or immediate family members with proper identification.
Are Washington Divorce Records Public Information?
Generally, any member of the public may obtain information on any divorce that occurs in the state. However, some Washington divorce records contain information that is considered confidential under statutory law and thus are unavailable to unauthorized parties. Some of this information includes
- Retirement plan orders
- Vital statistics forms
- Notices of intent to relocate
- Particular family law and guardianship reports
- Sealed financial source documents such as income tax returns and credit card statements.
How Do I Obtain Divorce Records in Washington?
Interested parties may find and, where possible, obtain copies of divorce records by utilizing a third-party website. Requestors who choose to use this method must provide the online vendor with any necessary information to facilitate the search for the required records, such as the divorce's location and the parties' names. Interested parties may also obtain copies of divorce records for divorces from 1968-date in person at the Washington State Department of Health. Parties who wish to receive records via this method must complete and submit a divorce certificate application. In addition, interested parties may also obtain copies of divorce records by contacting the clerk's office at the court where the divorce proceeding happened.
How to Get a Certified Divorce Certificate in Washington
To get a certified divorce certificate in Washington, visit the Washington State Department of Health or the county clerk's office where the divorce was granted. Eligible parties include the divorced individuals or their legal representatives with valid identification.
Are Washington Birth Records Public Information?
Yes. Washington birth records are presently considered public records in Washington. However, most Washington birth records contain a confidential section usually unavailable to anyone who is not the registrant or an eligible requester.
How Do I Obtain Washington Birth Records?
Birth records in Washington typically fall under two categories, Pre-1907 and Post-1907. Records of births that occurred before 1907 are maintained and issued by the respective counties where the birth occurred, while the Washington State Department of Health maintains records of births from 1907-date. Interested parties who wish to order birth certificate replacements may either do so online via a third-party website or by contacting the state Department of Health located at:
Center for Health Statistics
Town Center 1
101 Israel Road SE
Tumwater, WA 98501
Applicants may obtain these records in person after submitting a completed birth certificate order form to:
Department of Health
P.O. Box 9709
Are Birth Certificates Public in Washington?
Are Washington Birth Certificates Public: Washington birth certificates are not public records. The Revised Code of Washington § 70.58A.100 outlines the provisions for the disclosure of birth certificates.
Are Washington Death Records Open to the Public?
Most Washington death records are open to members of the public. However, some death records include a confidential section. The information in this section is usually unavailable unless the record is obtained with a court order authorizing the disclosure of this information. As with birth records, public death records in Washington are also grouped into Pre-1907 deaths and Post-1907 deaths.
How Do I Obtain Death Records in Washington?
Interested parties who wish to initiate a death certificate search may do so online through a third-party website. Interested or eligible persons can also obtain death records for post-1907 deaths at the State Department of Health after completing either a death certificate order form. Copies of all vital records typically cost $20 per certificate requested. It should, however, be noted that interested parties who order a death record search by name through a method other than the walk-in/in-person method may pay an additional service fee, depending on the request method utilized.
How Do I Obtain Sealed Vital Records in Washington?
In the state of Washington, adoption records are automatically sealed, and original copies of these records may only be accessed by either an adult adoptee, a birth parent who is a registrant on the record, or by parties who can obtain a court order showing good cause as to why the record should be unsealed. For example, to get an original (pre-adoption) non-certified copy of a birth certificate from the state Department of Health, interested parties are required to complete an adoptee request for original birth certificates from a sealed adoption file. However, if the birth parent on the record has filed an affidavit of non-disclosure, the requestor may not obtain a copy of the birth record. Also, birth parents who wish to obtain copies of a birth certificate for their adopted child are required to complete a birth parent request for an original birth certificate from a sealed adoption file.
These forms and all applicable fees may be submitted via mail to:
Department of Health/CHS
P.O. Box 9709
Olympia, WA 98507-9709
Copies of adoptee birth certificates cost $20 per copy. In addition, parties who wish to make birth parent requests for birth certificates must pay a non-refundable $15 fee to open a sealed file. All payments should be in the form of either cashier's checks or money orders made payable to the Department of Health.
What are Vital Statistics in Washington?
In Washington, vital statistics encompass key life events and health data. The Washington State Department of Health's Center for Health Statistics manages the compilation of this information. The department makes this available to the public, government, and research organizations seeking to identify public health patterns, make informed policy decisions, and allocate resources. This data is especially critical in disease control and population management in Washington.