Colorado OBC law has been on a roller coaster over the years, and the legislature itself has stated that its laws regarding OBC access have been “confusing, complicated, and ambiguous.” It has now settled down. Currently, it is believed that all adoptees who are at least 18 years of age may apply for and receive a non-certified copy of their original birth certificate through the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
Relevant Colorado Law: Original Birth Certificates
25-2-113. New certificates of birth following adoption – parentage determination
(1) (a) The state registrar shall prepare a new certificate of birth as to any person born in this state whenever he or she receives, with respect to such a person, any of the following: A report concerning adoption or parentage as required by section 25-2-107; or a report or certified copy of a decree concerning the adoption or parentage of the person from a court of competent jurisdiction outside this state; or a certified copy of the marriage certificate of the parents, together with a statement of the husband, executed after the marriage, in which the husband acknowledges paternity. The state registrar shall not prepare a new certificate of birth for an adoption if the court that has decreed the adoption, an adoptive parent, or the adopted person has requested that the state registrar not prepare such new certificate of birth. Each new certificate must show all information shown on the original certificate of birth, except information for which substitute information is included as a result of the report or decree which prompts the preparation of the new certificate.
(b) A new certificate of birth shall be prepared by the state registrar as to any adopted person born in a foreign country and a resident of this state whenever the state registrar receives with respect to such person a certified copy of the final decree of adoption as required by section 19-5-212, C.R.S., and section 25-2-107 and findings of fact as required by this section. In proceedings for the adoption of a person who was born in a foreign country, the juvenile court having jurisdiction of adoptions, upon evidence from reliable sources, shall make findings of fact as to the date and place of birth and parentage of such person. The state registrar shall prepare a new birth certificate in the new name of the adopted person and shall seal the certified copy of the findings of the court and the certified copy of the final decree of adoption which shall be kept confidential except as otherwise provided in part 3 of article 5 of title 19, C.R.S. The birth certificate shall be labeled as a certificate of foreign birth and shall show specifically the true or probable country of birth and that the certificate is not evidence of United States citizenship. If the child was born in a foreign country but was a citizen of the United States at the time of birth, the state registrar shall not prepare a certificate of foreign birth but instead shall notify the adoptive parents of the procedures for obtaining a revised birth certificate for their child through the United States department of state. Any copy of a certificate of foreign birth issued shall indicate this policy, show the actual place of birth, and indicate the fact that the certificate is not proof of United States citizenship for the adopted child. A new certificate of birth in the new name of the adopted person prepared by the state registrar pursuant to this section is hereby legalized and made valid.
(2) (a) The state registrar shall register each new certificate of birth prepared pursuant to subsection (1) of this section by marking thereon the words “new certificate”, by marking thereon the date such certificate is completed, which date thereafter shall be the registration date, and by substituting such new certificate for the original certificate of birth for such person.
(b) A new certificate of birth issued pursuant to an adoption, and any copy of such certificate issued, shall be marked by the state registrar with the words “issued pursuant to adoption” if so requested by an adoptive parent or by an adopted person.
(c) The state registrar shall develop rules to ensure that the adoptive parent’s decision to include such information, in paragraph (b) of this subsection (2), is made knowingly, including having a separate signature line verifying such choice.
(3) Thereafter, the original certificate and evidence concerning adoption or parentage must be sealed and is not subject to inspection, except as provided in section 25-2-113.5 or in part 3 of article 5 of title 19, by regulation, or upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction after the court has satisfied itself that the interests of the child or the child’s descendants or the parents will best be served by opening the seal. The information obtained from opening the seal may be withheld from public view or from being presented as evidence at the discretion of the judge.
(4) In the event the decree which formed the basis for the new certificate of birth is annulled and if the state registrar receives either a certified copy of such decree of annulment or a report with respect to such decree as required by section 25-2-107, the state registrar shall return the original certificate to its place in the files. Thereafter the new certificate and evidence concerning the annulment shall not be subject to inspection except as provided in section 25-2-113.5, upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as provided by regulation.
(5) If no certificate of birth is on file for the person for whom a new birth certificate is to be established under this section and the date and place of birth have not been determined in the adoption or paternity proceedings, a delayed certificate of birth shall be filed with the state registrar before a new certificate of birth is established. The new birth certificate shall be prepared on the delayed birth certificate form.
(6) When a new certificate of birth is established by the state registrar, all copies of the original certificate of birth in the custody of any other custodian of vital records in this state shall be sealed from inspection, except as otherwise provided in part 3 of article 5 of title 19, C.R.S., or forwarded to the state registrar, as the state registrar shall direct.
Relevant Colorado Law: Adoption Records
(6.5)(a.5) “Adoption record”, as used in section 19-5-305 (2) (b) (I) to (2) (b) (IV), means the following documents and information, without redaction:
(I) The adoptee’s original birth certificate and amended birth certificate;
(II) The final decree of adoption;
(III) Any identifying information, such as the name of the adoptee before placement in adoption, the name and address of each birth parent as they appear in the birth records, the name, address, and contact information of the adult adoptee, and the current name, address, and contact information of each birth parent, if known, or other information that might personally identify a birth parent;
(IV) Any nonidentifying information, as defined in section 19-1-103 (80);
(V) The final order of relinquishment; and
(VI) The order of termination of parental rights.
19-5-305. Access to adoption records— contact with parties to adoption— contact preference form and updated medical history statement— definitions
(1) Confidentiality. All adoption records are confidential from the general public and must remain confidential except as described in subsections (1.5) and (2) of this section or upon demonstration of good cause pursuant to section 19-1-309 or as otherwise provided by law.
(1.5) Contact preference forms and updated medical history statements from birth parents.
(a) The state registrar shall prescribe and make available to a birth parent named on an original birth certificate in the records of the state registrar a contact preference form on which the birth parent may indicate a preference regarding contact by the adult adoptee, an adult descendant of the adoptee, or a legal representative of the adoptee or descendant. The purpose of the contact preference form is to allow the birth parent the opportunity to indicate a preference to be contacted directly, to be contacted through a third party, or not to be contacted by other parties.
(b) The form must also include space for a written statement by the birth parent, which may include updated medical history about the birth parent or other biological relatives, an explanation for the stated contact preference, or other information for the party seeking records. The medical history statement form must indicate that the birth parent is waiving confidentiality of any medical information supplied in the statement with respect to the adoptee, an adult descendant of the adoptee, or a legal representative of such individual, and to the state registrar or his or her designees.
(c) The state registrar shall maintain the contact preference form and the medical history statements, if any, and make them accessible to an individual who is an eligible party allowed to receive adoption records as described in subparagraph (I) of paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of this section and who submits a written application form, proof of identity, and an explanation of the individual’s relationship to the adoptee, if applicable. The state registrar is authorized to verify the submission of a contact preference form or an updated medical history statement and to provide a copy of a contact preference form to a confidential intermediary appointed pursuant to section 19-5-304 or to a designated employee of a child placement agency who is searching pursuant to subparagraph (III) of paragraph (b) of subsection (3) of this section. The state registrar shall maintain and make available to the public accurate statistics about the number of contact preference forms on file with the state registrar and how many of the forms state a preference for contact, no contact, or contact through a third party.
(d) (I) As used in this section, “eligible party” means a person who is eligible under subparagraph (I) of paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of this section to have access to adoption records.
(II) The option on the contact preference form that allows a birth parent to authorize or not authorize the release of the original birth certificate to eligible parties expires on January 1, 2016. The state registrar shall revise the contact preference form to eliminate this option, effective January 1, 2016, and shall neither distribute nor accept contact preference forms on or after January 1, 2016, that contain an option regarding such release. On and after January 1, 2016, contact preference forms shall only address a birth parent’s preferences regarding contact and the ability to submit an explanation for the stated contact preference and to submit or update medical history. A child placement agency is not liable to any person for the failure of a birth parent to submit a contact preference form to the state registrar. On and after July 1, 2014, the state registrar shall post a notice on the website of the office of the state registrar of vital statistics stating that the contact preference form will be revised to eliminate the option to authorize or object to the release of the original birth certificate and that birth parents may exercise this option prior to January 1, 2016.
(III) Prior to allowing access to and providing a copy of an original birth certificate to an eligible party, the state registrar must perform a diligent search for a contact preference form executed prior to January 1, 2016, to ascertain if either birth parent had stated a preference authorizing or not authorizing the release of the original birth certificate to eligible parties. If both birth parents have filed a contact preference form executed prior to January 1, 2016, stating a preference to authorize the release of the original birth certificate, then the state registrar must release the original birth certificate to the eligible party. If there is no contact preference form on file prior to January 1, 2016, from a birth parent named on the original birth certificate, or if a contact preference form executed prior to January 1, 2016, is on file that states a preference that the original birth certificate not be released, then the state registrar may not release the original birth certificate to the eligible party prior to January 1, 2016, unless the birth parent rescinds the contact preference form, upon mutual consent of two or more reunited parties, the birth parent is deceased, or the eligible party obtains a court order pursuant to section 19-1-309. When one birth parent has authorized the release of the birth certificate and the other birth parent has filed a contact preference form prior to January 1, 2016, not authorizing release, the state registrar shall issue the original birth certificate to the eligible party with the name of the nonconsenting parent redacted.
(2) Legislative declaration— access to adoption records.
(a) The general assembly takes note that the law in Colorado regarding access to adoption records has treated persons differently depending upon the law in effect upon the date of the adoption of the adoptee and that the statutory scheme has been confusing, complicated, and ambiguous. By repealing and reenacting provisions of this section to remove those varying time periods and varying levels of access or nonaccess to adoption records by an adult adoptee or by a birth parent, it is the intent of the general assembly that access to adoption records no longer be dependent upon the law in effect on the date of the finalization of adoption. The general assembly declares that the purpose of the revision of this subsection (2) is to make the access to adoption records by members of the adoption triad more uniform as outlined in this subsection (2). The general assembly further declares that it is the intent of the general assembly to not abrogate, limit, or change the holding in or affect any rights created under In re J.N.H., 209 P.3d 1221 (Colo. App. 2009) with respect to access by an adult adoptee to the names of his or her birth parents and to all court records and papers regarding the adoption of the adult adoptee. The general assembly further declares that in construing this section, the courts should liberally construe this section in favor of releasing the records.
(b) Subject to the provisions of subsection (4) of this section and in addition to information exchanged in a designated adoption or inspection authorized by a court upon good cause shown pursuant to section 19-1-309, access to adoption records by certain parties is governed by the following provisions:
(I) (A) Adult adoptees, their descendants, and adoptive family members. Upon request, the custodian of records shall provide direct access, without redaction, to all adoption records, as defined in section 19-1-103(6.5)(a.5), for inspection and copying by an adult adoptee, an adoptive parent of a minor adoptee, a custodial grandparent of a minor adoptee, or the legal representative of any such individual. In addition, the custodian of records shall provide direct access to adoption records for inspection and copying by a spouse of an adult adoptee, an adult descendant of an adoptee, an adult sibling or half-sibling of an adult adoptee, an adoptive parent or grandparent of an adult adoptee, or the legal representative of any such individual, if the individual requesting access has the notarized written consent of the adult adoptee or if the adult adoptee is deceased.
(B) Access by an adult adoptee or descendant to the original birth certificate and amended birth certificate of a sibling with a common birth parent. Upon proof of evidence of at least one common birth parent between an adult adoptee and a sibling or half-sibling, the custodian of records shall provide, without redaction, to an adult adoptee, a descendant of the adult adoptee, or a legal representative of the adult adoptee or descendant direct access to a noncertified copy of the unaltered original birth certificate and the amended birth certificate of an adult sibling or half-sibling who was born, relinquished, or adopted in the state of Colorado, subject to the provisions of subsection (4) of this section.
(II) Access by a birth parent to the original birth certificate. A birth parent who relinquished a child for adoption, whose termination of the parent-child legal relationship was not the result of a dependency and neglect action, and who signed or is named on the original birth certificate may apply to the state registrar for and obtain a noncertified copy of the unaltered original birth certificate of the child he or she relinquished if the child was born in this state, or if the child’s adoption was finalized in this state, or both.
(III) (A) Access to death certificates of deceased parties. Upon request of an eligible party or a birth parent as described in subparagraph (II) of this paragraph (b), the state registrar shall conduct a search of death certificates to determine whether an adoptee or a birth parent is deceased. If the state registrar finds a death certificate for the adult adoptee or the birth parent, then the state registrar shall provide a copy to the eligible party. The state registrar may collect a fee for conducting a search and for making a copy of the death certificate.
(B) Access to records pertaining to a deceased party. If an eligible party or a birth parent as described in subparagraph (II) of this paragraph (b) applies to a custodian of records for access to records about an adult adoptee or a birth parent and the custodian of records determines that the person whose records are being sought is deceased or can reasonably be presumed to be deceased based on the known or estimated date of birth of the sought party, the custodian of records shall provide direct access to the records for inspection and copying by the eligible party.
(IV) Proof of identification and fees. Prior to releasing any records to any eligible party allowed to receive records pursuant to this subsection (2), the custodian of records must require the eligible party requesting access to provide proof of identification. The custodian of records may charge reasonable fees for providing copies of records. The state registrar shall transmit all moneys collected pursuant to subparagraph (III) of this paragraph (b) and this subparagraph (IV) to the state treasurer, who shall credit the same to the vital statistics records cash fund created in section 25-2-121, C.R.S.
(V) Release of records by child placement agencies and prior written statements of birth parents. Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraph (I) of this paragraph (b), the adoption records, as defined in section 19-1-103 (6.5) (a), in the possession of a child placement agency may not be open for inspection or made available for copying with respect to any identifying information concerning a birth parent if the birth parent has previously provided the court and the child placement agency, if applicable, with a signed and notarized written statement, within three years after the final order of relinquishment or termination of the parent-child legal relationship, specifying that such parent wishes the identifying information concerning that parent to remain confidential; except that the adoption records in the possession of a child placement agency may be open for inspection and made available for copying with respect to identifying information concerning a birth parent if a birth parent provides a consent form, as defined in section 19-1-103 (28.5), to the child placement agency consenting to the release of identifying information and the release of identifying information is consistent with the provisions of subsection (3) of this section. A written statement specifying that a birth parent wishes the identifying information concerning that parent on file with a child placement agency to remain confidential must remain in the court’s and the child placement agency’s relinquishment or termination file unless later withdrawn by the parent or superceded by a consent form. A child placement agency is not liable to any individual for the failure of a birth parent to submit such a written statement to the court. In addition to such a statement, the birth parent may also submit to the court and to the child placement agency a letter of explanation that the court and the child placement agency must release to the adoptee at the time that the adoptee makes a request for inspection of the adoption records. This subparagraph (V) applies only to adoption records in the possession of child placement agencies and does not apply to adoption records in the possession of the court or any other agency, entity, or person.
(3) Access to identifying information through child placement agencies.
(a) Upon proof of identity of the person submitting the consent form, a licensed child placement agency shall accept and may seek a consent form, as that term is defined in section 19-1-103 (28.5), from an adult adoptee or from either adult adoptee’s birth parent or from an adoptive parent of a minor adoptee or from the legal representative of a minor adoptee authorizing the release of identifying information, as that term is defined in section 19-1-103 (63.5), concerning the person submitting the consent form, to the extent such information is available to the child placement agency. If only one birth parent has filed a consent form with the child placement agency, the child placement agency or any succeeding custodian of the records shall provide a copy of the identifying information without the name of and without identifying information about the nonconsenting birth parent.
(b) (I) Upon inquiry by an adult adoptee or an adult adoptee’s birth parent or an adoptive parent of a minor adoptee seeking information about another party from a licensed child placement agency, the child placement agency shall be authorized to release identifying information to the inquiring person, upon proof of identity by the inquiring person, if the licensed child placement agency is in possession of a consent form from the party about whom information is sought authorizing such release.
(II) In those circumstances in which a child placement agency has released identifying information pursuant to paragraph (a) of this subsection (3), the child placement agency may attempt to locate at the last known address the person who had originally submitted the consent form and, upon locating such person, advise him or her of the release and provide him or her with the opportunity to fill out a contact preference form and updated medical history statement as prescribed in subsection (1.5) of this section. If the inquiring person also submitted a consent form authorizing the release of identifying information about him or her, the child placement agency may provide such identifying information to the person located.
(III) A child placement agency that accepts a consent form may perform a search for the sought party, subject to the requirement that an employee designated by the child placement agency to perform a search and to contact the sought party shall have completed training that meets the standards set forth by the adoption intermediary commission.
(c) A licensed child placement agency that accepts a consent form may charge a reasonable fee to cover the direct and indirect costs associated with the services provided pursuant to this subsection (3), if a written fee agreement has been signed by the agency and the party submitting the consent form prior to the provision of any service. If a child placement agency charges a fee, then the child placement agency shall make reasonable efforts to locate the person being sought and to release the information the child placement agency obtained to the person located. The licensed child placement agency shall be required to provide a list of names, addresses, and telephone numbers of organizations performing similar services prior to signing any fee agreement with any party submitting a consent form. Information in the post-adoption record is confidential and shall not be disclosed by a licensed child placement agency or any succeeding custodian of the records, or a court except as specifically permitted in this part 3, or as otherwise permitted by law.
(d) The release of any information by a licensed child placement agency pursuant to this subsection (3) shall be subject to the provisions of subsection (4) of this section.
(4) Access to information and contact concerning sibling groups. Notwithstanding the provisions set forth in subsections (1.5), (2), and (3) of this section authorizing access to adoption records and contact with an adoptee, in those circumstances in which one family has adopted two or more siblings, access to the adoption records concerning an adoptee and contact with an adoptee shall not occur until all of the siblings adopted by the family have attained eighteen years of age.
(5) Adult adoptee’s restriction on access to records. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (2) of this section, an adult adoptee may, at any time, provide the court that finalized the adoption and the child placement agency with a signed and notarized written statement specifying that such adult adoptee wishes to maintain identifying information concerning that adoptee, other than the original birth certificate, confidential. The written statement shall remain in the court’s adoption file unless later withdrawn by the adoptee. Nothing in this subsection (5) shall be construed to affect access to records through the confidential intermediary process.
(6) Contact between the parties. Subject to the provisions of subsection (2) of this section, any party may seek to make direct contact with another party or to use the services of a confidential intermediary as provided in section 19-5-304, a licensed child placement agency as provided in subsection (3) of this section, or the voluntary adoption registry maintained by the state registrar as provided in section 25-2-113.5, C.R.S.
19-1-309. Relinquishments and adoption information
Except as provided in parts 3 and 4 of article 5 of this title and section 19-1-303, all records and proceedings in relinquishment or adoption shall be confidential and open to inspection upon order of the court for good cause shown or as otherwise authorized pursuant to article 5 of this title. The court shall act to preserve the anonymity of the biological parents, the adoptive parents, and the child from the general public, except as ordered by the court for good cause shown pursuant to this section or except as authorized pursuant to a designated adoption or pursuant to section 19-5-104 (2) or part 3 or 4 of article 5 of this title. A separate docket shall be maintained for relinquishment proceedings and for adoption proceedings.