When you apply for a car loan or passport or conduct business in another state, some of the requirements you need to provide could include certified copies of legal documents. Similarly, if you’re in the middle of a divorce or any legal action, your attorneys might need certified copies of documents that were already filed at the county clerk’s office.
Obtaining certified documents and court records is a service we offer at Serve Index LLC. This is another task our process servers have experience with, along with retrieving legal documents from NY courts.
What Is a Certified Copy of Legal Documents?
A certified copy of any legal document is essentially a photocopy of the original file. When an officer who has custody of the original document certifies a copy, it means that they attest that the certified copy is a true and accurate reproduction of the original document. This is where the phrase, “true and certified copy” comes from.
Unlike exemplified copies that must be signed by the county clerk and a judge, certified copies don’t need hand-written signatures from the people who issued the documents.
A few more things that you need to know about certified copies:
- The state of New York doesn’t allow notaries to perform copy certifications for any document.
- In New York, only the custodians of records are allowed to produce certified copies of private and publicly recorded documents.
- Certified copies can only be made from original documents. If it no longer exists and the copy must be made from another duplicate, the certified copy should have the note, “photocopy of a photocopy.”
- A certified copy of a birth certificate is as good as the original when applying for a passport, driver’s license, marriage license, bank and credit card accounts, etc.
These are the publicly recorded documents for which you can get a certified copy in New York:
- Birth, marriage, and death certificates
- Passport and driver’s license
- Transcripts and other student records
- Income tax forms
- Citizenship and naturalization certificates
- Documents filed in court proceedings
- Documents recorded by the Clerk of the Court
- Public records of government offices
How Do I Obtain a Certified Copy of Legal Documents?
The process of getting certified copies in New York varies depending on the type of document that needs certifying (recall that New York only allows the official document custodians to certify copies, so each source can have their own SOPs). There are, however, two ways to obtain them:
- Requesting via mail
- Requesting in person
The general process for obtaining a certified copy also goes like this:
Step 1: File a request for a certified copy of the document you need.
Step 2: Pay the fee.
Step 3: Allow the custodian to conduct a search (“Find on File”). How long it takes to find the original document on file, however, depends on how old it is. The farther back the custodian must search, the longer it could take to find the original document. You might also be asked to pay additional fees if the search is more extensive than expected.
Step 3: Receive a notification that your certified copy is ready.
Step 4: Claim the certified copy from the custodian.
This is a simplified version of the process. Obtaining a certified copy of a divorce decree, for example, has extra requirements like you must be a party to the divorce or have a notarized letter signed by a party to the divorce. Minute details like this can be a lot to take if you need to get a certified copy of multiple documents at once.
The Hassle-Free Way of Getting Certified Documents and Court Records
The easiest way to get a certified copy of any legal document is to hire experienced process servers. Whether you need these documents for your personal use or your lawyers need them for a legal action you’re pursuing, Serve Index LLC can do the job.