A State-by-State Guide

Adoptees have a birth certificate, but nearly all are modified documents that name their adoptive parents and the name they gave the child after adoption; this is not the adoptee’s original birth certificate. An original birth certificate, often abbreviated to “OBC,” includes the biological mother’s and/or father’s name and the name, if any, they gave to the child at birth.

Each state in the U.S. makes its own laws about the access adoptees have to their adoption records, including the original birth certificate. Adoptees have to at least request a copy of the OBC. That is all that’s required to get a copy in some states. Other states offer adoptees no access at all or require a court order.

All information is current as of July 1, 2023, and applies to adoptees born and adopted in the state named, unless otherwise noted. Changes to these laws may occur any time, so please check with your state to see if any new laws have been introduced, passed, or enacted. We update this article from time to time. If you know of any updates, please contact us. For more information about adoptee legal issues and advocacy, visit the Adoptee Rights Law Center.

Alphabetical Listing of States and Their Current Laws

ALABAMAAlabama is unrestricted. Once an adopted person reaches age 19, they can request and receive a copy of their original birth certificate. Obtain the instructions and application form from Alabama Public Health.

ALASKAAlaska is unrestricted. Adopted persons at age 18 can obtain their original birth certificates, without a court order, and without the consent of the birth parents. Obtain instructions and a request form from the Alaska Department of Health Division of Public Health.

ARIZONA—Arizona offers partial access. Adult adoptees age 18 and older and born before June 20, 1968, or after September 28, 2021, may apply for a copy of their original birth certificate. Those in between those dates can only access their records by court order. Birth parents may file a contact preference form and medical history form. Visit the Arizona Department of Health Services for instructions and the application.

ARKANSASAdoptees age 21 and older can request their adoption file, which usually includes the original birth certificate and adoption decree (but not always). If the adoptee is deceased, spouses or guardians of their child may also request. Birth parents may redact their name(s) from the adoption file, or update family history and contact preference. Obtain instructions and forms from the Arkansas Department of Health.

CALIFORNIARecords in California are sealed and require a court order for access. The state does offer additional information about obtaining information and connecting families. Visit the California Department of Social Services for information.

COLORADOColorado offers unrestricted access to adoptees age 18 and older, and to certain family members, including spouses, adult descendants, adult siblings, parents, and grandparents or their legal representatives, with the notarized written consent of the adoptee (or in case of the adoptee’s death). The adoption records of minors are also available to adoptive parents and custodial grandparents, or their legal representatives. The instructions and forms are available on the Colorado Judicial Branch site.

CONNECTICUTConnecticut offers unrestricted access to original birth certificates for adoptees age 18 and over, or the adult child or grandchild of the adoptee. Others must obtain a court order. Get more information and forms from the Connecticut State Department of Public Health.

DELAWARE—Adopted age 21 and older in Delaware can apply for their original birth certificate. Upon receipt of the request, the State will attempt to contact the birth mother; if they do, and she demands privacy, the records will not be released. If the birth mother is not located within eight weeks, the certificate will be released. For forms and instructions, visit the Delaware Office of Vital Statistics.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIAOriginal birth certificates are only available to adoptees in D.C. by court order. Visit the DC District Court to information and petitions.

FLORIDAIn Florida, adoptees may obtain their original birth certificate in three ways:

  1. Court order
  2. Birth parent permission
  3. Proof that both birth parents listed on the certificate are deceased.

Before 1987, adult adoptees could obtain their records without a court order. However, an amended law changed this. In 2023, State Senator Linda Stewart (D), in Florida Senate District 17 in Orlando, sponsored bill S0854, Release of Adoption Information. This bill is currently dead but would have made several changes to Florida’s laws surrounding adoption information in the state, including allowing adoptees to request a copy of their original birth certificate upon turning 18 years old.

Florida does offer an Adoption Reunion Registry for adoptees and their families, and birth families. Adoptees may be eligible to obtain non-identifying information such as medical history. Get information from the Florida Department of State Division of Library and Information Services.

GEORGIA—If the birth parent(s) have filed an unrevoked written consent, the name of the birth parents shall be released upon the request of the adoptee age 21 or older. Birth parents and siblings may do the same to request information on the adoptee. An adoptee’s child at age 21 or older, if the adoptee is deceased, may also apply. Many of these services are facilities through the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry, but information is also available with the Georgia Department of Human Services Division of Family & Children Services.

HAWAII—Hawaii has one of the most open and unrestricted laws of all the states. If an adult person (age 18 or older) was born in and adopted in Hawaii, the adoptee, the adoptive parents, and the birth parents have access to the entire, un-redacted adoption file, including court documents and the original birth certificate. Request records using the Hawaii Family Court form. For information on who may request records and how to go about doing so, visit the State of Hawaii Department of Health.

IDAHO—All adoptions finalized in Idaho before July 1, 2022, require a court order for the adoptee to access their original birth certificate. For adoptions finalized after that date, Idaho employs the state’s Voluntary Adoption Registry. If all parties have consented through the registry, the original birth certificate is available. Learn more at the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare.

ILLINOIS—Adoptees age 21 and older, or their children if deceased, may request a copy of their original birth certificate. Birth parents of adopted children born after 1945 may file to stop the disclosure of their identity, until they die. Forms and instructions are available with the Illinois Department of Public Health.

INDIANA—Adoptees at age 18 may begin the process of accessing various levels of information and become eligible to receive that information at age 21, unless the birth parents have blocked the release of such information, utilizing the Adoption Matching Registry. Learn more and access the Registry with the Indiana Department of Health.

IOWA—Adoptees (or other entitled adults in the case of their death) age 18 and older may apply for their original birth certificate. More information and forms are available from the State of Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.

KANSAS—All adult adoptees (age 18 and older) have access to their original birth certificate, but only to the adoptee. All persons born in Kansas, whether adopted or not, have this access, and use the same form to request the certificate, at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Division of Public Health.

KENTUCKY—Original birth certificates are available via court order only. However, adoptees age 21 and older may inspect the adoption records with the birth parents’ consent. If the birth parents have not given consent and/or cannot be located, or are deceased, the adoptee must gain a court order for inspection. The Kentucky Adoption Reunion Registrymay offer assistance with the different options and forms available.

LOUISIANA—Adoptees age 24 and older my request a copy of their original birth certificate. Birth parents may submit a Contact Preference Form. Find more information and the application form at the Louisiana Department of Health.

MAINE—Adoptees age 18 and older may obtain their original birth certificate. Birth parents may file a contact preference and medical history form. Maine also hosts an Adoption Reunion Registry. Details, instructions, and forms are available through the Maine Division of Public Health Systems.

MARYLAND—Adoptees who were adopted prior to July 1, 1947, and after January 1, 2000, once they turn age 21, may request their original birth certificates. Those adopted in between those dates may not and may obtain them only via court order. The state offers a Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry (MCVAR), which includes search services. For complete details, visit the Maryland Department of Human Services.

MASSACHUSETTS—Massachusetts offers unrestricted access to original birth certificates. Adult adoptees (ages 18 and older), adult children of deceased adoptees, parents or legal guardians of a minor child of an adoptee, and the adoptive parent of a minor child may apply through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

MICHIGAN—Adoption records are sealed in Michigan and may only be obtained through a court order. For information, visit the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services.

MINNESOTA—Adoptees age 19 and older may request their original birth certificates. Birth parents may request non-disclosure. The state may assist with contacting any birth parents who have not authorized access for a fee. Information and forms are available through the Minnesota Department of Health.

MISSISSIPPI—Records are closed in Mississippi and are only opened via court order. The Mississippi Confidentiality Act facilitates the release of information through a convoluted process, but limits that to adult adoptees age 21 and older adopted after July 1, 2005 (!). A bill to permit adoptees after 18 years was introduced in 2021, but did not advance. A search of Mississippi State’s online government archives provided no information about this, so please refer to the Adoptee Rights Law Center for complete information.

MISSOURI—Adoptees, their attorneys and descendants, and birth parents may request copies of original birth certificates. Both adoptees and birth parents may submit contact preference forms. Birth parents may also submit medical history forms. Obtain information and forms from the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

MONTANA—The accessibility of original birth certificates in Montana depends upon the adoption date. The certificate is available for those adopted 30 or more years ago, and to those adopted on or after October 1, 1997, once the adoptee is at least of 18 years old, as long as a birth parent has not prohibited the release. Those adopted outside of these guidelines must obtain a court order. Those eligible may use the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services birth certificate request form.

NEBRASKA—Those aged 21 or older and adopted prior to September 1, 1988, may request access to names of relatives and original birth certificate. The State will complete a search and send the information they find to the county court. Request forms are available through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

NEVADA—Nevada offers an adoption reunion registry for adult adoptees and birth parents, and other specified relatives. Original birth certificates are only available via court order.

NEW HAMPSHIRE—Adoptees age 18 and older, their legal representative, or their immediate legal family can get their original birth certificate, birth parent contact preference form, and/or medical history. Complete details, forms, and instructions are available from the New Hampshire Secretary of State.

NEW JERSEY—Adult adoptees age 18 and older can obtain copies of the original birth certificate. Children, siblings, spouses, parents, legal guardians, and legal representatives may request same. Complete instructions and forms are available through the State of New Jersey Department of Health.

NEW MEXICO—New Mexico requires a court order for adoptees to get their original birth certificate. However, the State does not require that an amended birth certificate be created after an adoption takes place; therefore, if the court, adoptive parents, or adoptee has not requested the birth certificate be amended, the original birth certificate is still available. Birth certificate request forms are available through the New Mexico Department of Health.

NEW YORK—Adoptees age 18 and older, their descendants, and lawful representatives may get a copy of the original birth certificate. Instructions and forms are available through the New York State Department of Health.

NORTH CAROLINA—North Carolina offers original birth certificates only through court order.

NORTH DAKOTANorth Dakota offers original birth certificates only through court order.

OHIO—Certain adoptees may obtain their original birth certificates in the state of Ohio. Adult adoptees and their descendants may submit an application for a copy of the adoption file, which usually contains the original birth certificate, if the adoption was finalized prior to January 1, 1964. Instructions and forms are available from the Ohio Department of Health.

If the adoption was finalized January 1, 1964, to September 18, 1996, adult adoptees and their descendants (age 18+) may file for a copy of their adoption file, which usually includes the original birth certificate. The file may also include biological parent or sibling release forms. Both adoptees and birth parents may file contact preference forms, medical history forms, and for the release of adopted names. Birth parents could also have filed to have their name redacted from the original birth certificate through March 19, 2015. Complete details, instructions, and forms are available from the Ohio Department of Health.

This is how I obtained my original birth certificate. – Traci Tucker, Chief Genealogist

Adoptees whose adoptions were finalized after September 18, 1996, may request their adoption file once they reach age 21. If older than 18 but younger than 21, the adoptive parents may request it. Complete details, instructions, and forms are available from the Ohio Department of Health.

OKLAHOMA—Adoptee at least 18 years old whose adoption occurred after November 1, 1997, may obtain a copy of their original birth certificate. However, the birth parent(s) can request non-disclosure. Otherwise, a court order is required. Details and forms are available through the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

OREGON—Adoptees age 21 and older or their legal representatives may order a copy of the original birth certificate. Instructions and forms are available through the Oregon Health Authority Center for Health Statistics.

PENNSYLVANIA—Pennsylvania adoptees and their descendants may apply for a copy of their original birth record. Birth parents may request their name be redacted. Any birth parents requesting redaction must also submit contact preference and medical information to the Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry. Complete information and forms are available through the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

RHODE ISLAND—Adoptees age 18 and older can request a copy of their original birth record. Birth parents may file a contact preference form and/or medical history. Rhode Island does offer a Voluntary Adoption Reunion Registry. Information and forms are available through the State of Rhode Island Department of Health.

SOUTH CAROLINA—Adoptees age 18 and older can apply for their original birth certificate only with written consent from at least one of the birth parents. Without consent, the records are only available via court order. Forms and FAQs are available through the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

SOUTH DAKOTA—South Dakota enacted HB 1231 on 23 March 2023 to allow adult adoptees (age 18+) to get their original birth certificate. The South Dakota Department of Social Services has not yet updated its website to reflect this. Contact the Division of Child Protection Services’ Adoption Unit for instructions.

TENNESSEE—Adoptees age 21 and older have full access to their records except in the case of rape or incest, which require the consent of the birth mother. Complete information, instructions, and forms are available through the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

TEXAS—Adult adoptees can obtain their original birth certificate. Instructions and forms are available from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

UTAH—Birth parent information is only available to adoptees – and vice versa – through the Utah Adoption Registry.

VERMONT—Adoptees age 18 and over and their descendants may get their original birth certificate and/or identifying information about their birth parents. Birth parents may file a contact preference form and had until July 1, 2023, to file a request for non-disclosure. Information and forms are available through the Vermont Department for Children and Families.

VIRGINIA—The state of Virginia requires a court order to obtain original birth records. Resources and FAQs are available through the Virginia Department of Social Services.

WASHINGTON—Washington adoptees age 18 and older may get a copy of their original birth certificate. Birth parents can request it not be released. Instructions and forms are available from the Washington State Department of Health.

WEST VIRGINIA—West Virginia offers a Registry that adoptees and birth parents may use to register their willingness to release their information to the other party. Otherwise, the information will only be released via a court order. Information and instructions are available through the State of West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Social Services.

WISCONSIN—Adoptees can only get their original birth records in Wisconsin through birth parent’s consent or court order. Information and forms for its Records Search Program are available through the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

WYOMING—Wyoming only permits the release of adoption information via court order. It does offer a Confidential Intermediary Program that may assist in reconnecting with birth family members. Information and forms are available through the Wyoming Department of Health.

 

Adoptees May Still be Able to Find Their Birth Families

Were you were adopted in a state that will not give you your original birth certificate or records? Have you received a copy of your OBC but the name of one or both of your birth parents are missing? Even so, you may still be able to locate your biological families through DNA testing. Contact us for assistance.