Adult adoptees do not have unrestricted access to their original birth certificates in California. Adult adoptees must petition the court and show “good and compelling cause” to disclose original birth records. Courts, however, must give “great weight” to the fact that the petitioning adoptee is an adult.
Identifying information on birth parents may be released, but this is dependent upon the age of the adoptee, the date of adoption, and whether birth parents agree to the release of information.
The California Department of Social Services has information for adoptees, siblings, and others who wish to obtain more information about an adoption, including how to request non-identifying information.
Relevant California Law: Original Birth Certificate
California Health and Safety Code Section 10635. A new birth certificate shall be established by the State Registrar upon receipt of either of the following:
(a) A report of adoption from any court of record that has jurisdiction of the child in this state, another state, the District of Columbia, in any territory of the United States, or in any foreign country, for any child born in California and whose certificate of birth is on file in the office of the State Registrar.
(b) A readoption order issued pursuant to Section 8919 of the Family Code.
Section 102640. When requested by the adopting parent or parents, a new certificate shall not be established by the State Registrar.
Notwithstanding other provisions in this article, when a child is adopted by an unmarried man or woman, the new certificate shall, if the adopting parent so requests, reflect the fact that it is a single-parent adoption.
Section 102660. If both adopting parents were in the home at the time of the initial placement of the child for adoption the newly amended birth record may include the names of both adopting parents despite the death of one of the adopting parents, upon receipt of an order from the court granting the adoption that directs under the authority of Section 8615 of the Family Code that the names of both adopting parents shall be included on the newly amended birth record.
Section 102670. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an adopting parent who has adopted a child for whom an amended record has already been prepared under authority of this article may have another amended record prepared for the child, upon application, furnishing a copy of the court order made in an action brought pursuant to Section 8615 of the Family Code, and payment of the required fee.
Section 102675. At any time after the issuance of a new birth certificate another amended certificate may be issued, at the request of the adopting parents, that omits any or all of the following:
(a) The specific name and address of the hospital or other facility where the birth occurred.
(b) The city and county of birth.
(c) The color and race of the parents.
Section 102680. The new birth certificate shall supplant any birth certificate previously registered for the child and shall be the only birth certificate open to public inspection.
Section 102685. When a new birth certificate is established under this article, the State Registrar shall inform the local registrar and the county recorder whose records contain copies of the original certificate, who shall forward the copies to the State Registrar for filing with the original certificate, if it is practical for him or her to do so. If it is impractical for him or her to forward the copy to the State Registrar, he or she shall effectually seal a cover over the copy in a manner as not to deface or destroy the copy and forward a verified statement of his or her action to the State Registrar. Thereafter the information contained in the record shall be available only as provided in this article.
Section 102690. For court reports of adoptions received from any court of record of this State, another state, the District of Columbia, or in any territory of the United States, that has jurisdiction of a child born in this State and for whom no original record of birth is on file in the Office of the State Registrar the court report of adoption shall constitute a court order delayed birth registration; provided, the court report contains a statement of the date and place of birth.
Section 102695. A court report of adoption received from any court of record in this State, wherein the birth occurred outside the United States, the Territories of the United States, or Canada shall constitute a court order delayed registration of birth; provided, the court report contains a statement of the date and place of birth.
Section 102700. The court report of adoption shall be filed with the original record of birth, that shall remain as a part of the records of the State Registrar.
Section 102705. All records and information specified in this article, other than the newly issued birth certificate, shall be available only upon the order of the superior court of the county of residence of the adopted child or the superior court of the county granting the order of adoption.
No such order shall be granted by the superior court unless a verified petition setting forth facts showing the necessity of the order has been presented to the court and good and compelling cause is shown for the granting of the order. The clerk of the superior court shall send a copy of the petition to the State Department of Social Services and the department shall send a copy of all records and information it has concerning the adopted person with the name and address of the natural parents removed to the court. The court must review these records before making an order and the order should so state. If the petition is by or on behalf of an adopted child who has attained majority, these facts shall be given great weight, but the granting of any petition is solely within the sound discretion of the court.
The name and address of the natural parents shall be given to the petitioner only if he or she can demonstrate that the name and address, or either of them, are necessary to assist him or her in establishing a legal right.
Relevant California Law: Identifying Information
Family Code § 9203
(a) The department or a licensed adoption agency shall do the following:
(1) Upon the request of a person who has been adopted pursuant to this part and who has attained the age of 21 years, disclose the identity of the person’s birth parent or parents and their most current address shown in the records of the department or licensed adoption agency, if the birth parent or parents have indicated consent to the disclosure in writing.
(2) Upon the request of the birth parent of a person who has been adopted pursuant to this part and who has attained the age of 21 years, disclose the adopted name of the adoptee and the adoptee’s most current address shown in the records of the department or licensed adoption agency, if the adult adoptee has indicated in writing, pursuant to the registration program developed by the department, that the adult adoptee wishes the adult adoptee’s name and address to be disclosed.
(3) Upon the request of the adoptive parent of a person under the age of 21 years who has been adopted pursuant to this part, disclose the identity of a birth parent and the birth parent’s most current address shown in the records of the department or licensed adoption agency if the department or licensed adoption agency finds that a medical necessity or other extraordinary circumstances justify the disclosure.
(b) The department shall prescribe the form of the request required by this section. The form shall provide for an affidavit to be executed by the requester that to the best of the requester’s knowledge the requester is an adoptee, the adoptee’s birth parent, or the adoptee’s adoptive parent. The department may adopt regulations requiring any additional means of identification from a requester that it deems necessary. The request shall advise an adoptee that if the adoptee consents, the adoptee’s adoptive parents will be notified of the filing of the request before the release of the name and address of the adoptee’s birth parent.
(c) Subdivision (a) is not applicable if a birth parent or an adoptee has indicated that he or she does not wish his or her name or address to be disclosed.
(d) Within 20 working days of receipt of a request for information pursuant to this section, the department shall either respond to the request or forward the request to a licensed adoption agency that was a party to the adoption.
(e) Notwithstanding any other law, the department shall announce the availability of the present method of arranging contact among an adult adoptee, the adult adoptee’s birth parents, and adoptive parents authorized by Section 9204 utilizing a means of communication appropriate to inform the public effectively.
(f) The department or licensed adoption agency may charge a reasonable fee in an amount the department establishes by regulation to cover the costs of processing requests for information made pursuant to subdivision (a). The department or licensed adoption agency shall waive fees authorized by this section for any person who is receiving public assistance pursuant to Part 3 (commencing with Section 11000) of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. The revenue resulting from the fees so charged shall be utilized by the department or licensed adoption agency to increase existing staff as needed to process these requests. Fees received by the department shall be deposited in the Adoption Information Fund. This revenue shall be in addition to any other funds appropriated in support of the state adoption program.
(g) This section applies only to adoptions in which the relinquishment for or consent to adoption was signed or the birth parent’s rights were involuntarily terminated by court action on or after January 1, 1984.