After a baby is born, a birth certificate is issued. The original birth certificate will include specific information, such as the place and time of birth, the baby’s length and weight at birth, and the biological parents’ names. After a child is adopted, a new “amended birth certificate” will be issued. Instead of the biological parents’ names, the new birth certificate will have the names of the adoptive parents. The amended birth certificate will also include the child’s new name, if their name is being changed.
Sealing of Original Birth Certificates
The laws vary by state as to how easily an adopted individual can obtain their original birth certificate.
In many states, after a child is adopted, the original birth certificate is sealed and no longer available. Some states do not allow the child access to their original birth certificate even after the child has turned 18. State laws vary, but sometimes portions of the identifying information about the child’s biological parents will be changed as well in the amended birth certificate. For example, some states change the “place of birth” from the original place of birth to the adoptive parents’ residence.
The sealing of the original birth certificate and amending of the new one is done so that no one will know that the child is adopted just by looking at the documents. However, some states allow the biological or adoptive parents to request that certain aspects remain the same as on the original birth certificate.
The amending of the birth certificate is generally part of the adoption process. After the judge has approved the adoption application, and the process is finalized, the state will issue a new birth certificate. It may take some time for the new birth certificate to be issued, potentially up to a year. If there is a compelling reason that you need the birth certificate sooner, a judge may be able to help you speed up the process.
Access to Original Birth Certificate
Many adoptees will want to have access to their original birth certificate, whether as a way to try to find their birth parents or for other reasons. Whether that access will be possible will depend on the state and other circumstances. As noted above, many states seal the original birth certificate. In some states, the adoptee can access the original birth certificate when they turn 18. In other states, an adoptee needs to petition the court in order to get a copy of their original birth certificate. Often, judges will only grant the request for the unsealing of the original birth certificate if the adoptee can prove that there is a compelling reason for the unsealing.
Did You Know?
A court may be more likely to grant access to an original birth certificate if the adoptee demonstrates necessity, like a medical need, rather than simple curiosity.
Usually, just wanting to find one’s biological parents is not enough of a reason. Judges often require something like medical issues. Judges are also much more likely to grant the unsealing of an original birth certificate if the biological parents are deceased. This is because they are not seen as having the same interest in privacy after death as they are when they are alive.
Conversely, if the state in which an adoptee was born keeps their records open, it is relatively easy for adoptees to access their original birth certificates. The first step is to contact the county clerk of the county in which you were born.
Some states have records that are neither open nor closed, but somewhere in between. Access to those records will depend on whether the birth parents have given consent for the original birth certificate to remain available. With international adoptions, it is often much more complicated. The process will depend on the child’s country of origin.