Court Document means a document issued by the court or filed or generated by the parties relative to proceedings and includes affidavits, applications, bundles, claim forms, exhibits, judgments, orders, pleadings, summonses. The most common documents for authentication may be a name change petition, divorce decree, bankruptcy court decision, etc.
In the event that a court document is to be used outside the United States, it needs to be apostilled or authenticated first.
For the document is issued by the state court:
If the destination country is a member of the Hague Convention of 1961, your document falls under the Apostille process (following Step 1-2);
If it's NOT a member of the Hague Convention of 1961, your document is required to go through the Authentication process (following Step 1-4).
For the document is issued by the federal court:
If the destination country is a member of the Hague Convention of 1961, directly send your document to the U.S. Department of State for Apostille process;
If it's NOT a member of the Hague Convention of 1961, your document is required to go through the Authentication process, which means have it authenticated at the U.S. Department of State first, then legalized by the embassy of that country.
Step 1: Get a certified copy of your court document
Contact the "county clerk's office" or "clerk of the court" for the county or city in which the document was issued.
A certified copy of your court document usually carries:
A raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal
The registrar’s signature
The date the certificate was filed with the registrar’s office
Step 2: Get it authenticated or apostilled by the Secretary of State
For Hague Convention Countries, get it certified with an apostille by the Secretary of State. For a state-issued court document, it does not require additional certification by the U.S. Department of State or legalization by a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas to be recognized in a participating country. You are all set!
For Non-Hague Convention Countries, get it certified with authentication by the Secretary of State. Go to Step 3.
Step 3: Get it authenticated or apostilled by the Department of State
Have your court document authenticated by the U.S. Department of State.
Step 4: Get it legalized by the embassy of your destination country
Contact the embassy of your destination country to get the court document legalized.
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