For my insurance, I must submit a copy of my marriage certificate. The insurance specified that an unofficial photocopy would suffice, but also gave a warning that it is illegal to photocopy this in some states.

So my next question was: Am I in a state allows photocopying or not? Googling didn't lead me to an obvious answer, so I called up the probate court and asked them. The person answered "I don't know" and couldn't make a recommendation on who to contact to find out.

Is there a quick and easy way to determine if my state (in the USA) allows photocopying of a marriage certificate?


1 Answer 1


There are quick and easy ways, and reliable ways. Hiring a lawyer is reliable. Googling "can I copy a marriage certificate in ___" is quick and easy, and unreliable. St. Croix county WI claims that "It is illegal for anyone, including you, to copy Wisconsin vital records". There are a few other Wisconsin governmental sites that support that claim like this. What you really want is to see the actual statute, which you might get by Googling "wisconsin statutes copy vital records", which will lead you to the actual statute. Then read 69.21.

One thing you will note is that there are requirements for certified copies of records, but no prohibitions: that is, the statute does not say "It is forbidden to photocopy a certified copy of a vital record". But wait: a couple of paragraphs down, 69.24 lists penalties, mentions that "if you do X, you will be penalized". Specifically, it is a felony if

Other than as authorized under ss. 69.21 (2) (d) and 69.30 (3), prepares or issues any paper or film which purports to be, or carries the appearance of, an original or a copy of a vital record, certified or uncertified, except as provided under this subchapter or s. 610.50 and except for any hospital which issues any written announcement of the birth of a person to the parents of the person if the announcement contains plain notice that the announcement is not for official use.

So it turns out to be true in Wisconsin, but it's not quick and easy to verify the claim. In Washington, "No person may prepare or issue any vital record that purports to be an original, certified copy, or copy of a vital record except as authorized in this chapter", which means that you have to read the chapter to see if there is authorization for you to make a photocopy of an uncertified copy, for insurance purposes. As far as I can determine, nothing specifically allows making your own copy. The general rule is, look for actual citations of statutes and not unsupported conclusions about what the law says.

  • 5
    You failed to follow the reference to 610.50, which is directly applicable to this situation: "An insurer or an employee, agent or attorney of an insurer is not subject to s. 69.24 (1) (a) for copying a certified copy of a vital record for the insurer's own internal administrative use in connection with the payment of insurance claims or benefits if the copy is marked “FOR ADMINISTRATIVE USE" and is retained in the files of the insurer or attorney."
    – Mark
    Jul 15, 2021 at 3:30
  • Can someone explain why this would be illegal? I assume there’s a good reason, but I don’t get it.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 12, 2022 at 20:58
  • @Mark the question isn't about an insurer or an employee, agent or attorney of an insurer making a copy, so 610.50 doesn't apply.
    – phoog
    Aug 7, 2022 at 22:26

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