Hawaiian-born adoptees do not have an unrestricted right to obtain their own original birth certificates. Only people who are adopted in Hawaii can request and obtain their court adoption records, which should include an original birth certificate. Access to the court record is provided upon request to an adoptee who is at least 18 years of age and was adopted in Hawaii. The law does not apply to people born in Hawaii but adopted in a different state. Conversely, those born outside of Hawaii but adopted in the state may request their court records in Hawaii.
Because the law does not apply to all Hawaiian-born adoptees and limits the records only to those who were adopted in Hawaii, I have changed the listing for Hawaii from “unrestricted” to “compromised.” Not all Hawaiian-born adoptees have an equal right to request and obtain their own original birth certificates. I explain my decision in greater detail here, including a recommended legislative fix.
Court instructions and additional information to request court records are here.
Relevant Hawaii Law: Original Birth Certificates
§ 338-17.7 Establishment of new certificates of birth, when
(a) The department of health shall establish, in the following circumstances, a new certificate of birth for a person born in this State who already has a birth certificate filed with the department and who is referred to below as the “birth registrant”:
(1) Upon receipt of an affidavit of paternity, a court order establishing paternity, or a certificate of marriage establishing the marriage of the natural parents to each other, together with a request from the birth registrant, or the birth registrant’s parent or other person having legal custody of the birth registrant, that a new birth certificate be prepared because previously recorded information has been altered pursuant to law;
(2) Upon receipt of a certified copy of a final order, judgment, or decree of a court of competent jurisdiction that determined the nonexistence of a parent and child relationship between a person identified as a parent on the birth certificate on file and the birth registrant;
(3) Upon receipt of a certified copy of a final adoption decree, or of an abstract of the decree, pursuant to sections 338-20 and 578-14;
(4) Upon receipt of an affidavit from a United States licensed physician attesting that:
(A) The physician has a bona fide physician-patient relationship with the birth registrant;
(B) The physician has treated and evaluated the birth registrant and has reviewed and evaluated the birth registrant’s medical history;
(C) The birth registrant has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to the new gender and has completed the transition to the new gender; and
(D) The new gender does not align with the sex designation on the birth registrant’s birth certificate; or
(5) Upon request of a law enforcement agency certifying that a new birth certificate showing different information would provide for the safety of the birth registrant; provided that the new birth certificate shall contain information requested by the law enforcement agency, shall be assigned a new number and filed accordingly, and shall not substitute for the birth registrant’s original birth certificate, which shall remain in place.
(b) When a new certificate of birth is established under this section, it shall be substituted for the original certificate of birth. The new certificate shall not be marked as amended and shall in no way reveal the original language changed by any amendment. Thereafter, the original certificate and the evidence supporting the preparation of the new certificate shall be sealed and filed. The sealed documents shall be opened only by an order of a court of record or, for those documents amended pursuant to subsection (a)(4), by request of the birth registrant.
(c) If a new certificate of birth is established under subsection (a)(4), it shall reflect, or shall be reissued to reflect, any legal name change made before, simultaneously, or after the change in sex designation; provided appropriate documentation of the name change is submitted.
(d) If a new certificate of birth is established under subsection (a)(4), the department shall not require any additional medical information or records other than those required by subsection (a)(4).
Relevant Hawaii Law: Adoption Records
§ 578-15. Secrecy of proceedings and records
(a) The records in adoption proceedings, after the petition is filed and prior to the entry of the decree, shall be open to inspection only by the parties or their attorneys, the director of human services or the director’s agent, or by any proper person on a showing of good cause therefor, upon order of the court. Except in the case of an individual being adopted by a person married to the legal father or mother of the individual or unless authorized by the court, no petition for adoption shall set forth the name of the individual sought to be adopted or the name of either of the parents of the individual; provided that the legal name of the individual and the name of each of the individual’s legal parents may be added to the petition by amendment during the course of the hearing thereof and shall be included in the decree. The hearing of the petition shall be in chambers and shall not be open to the public.
(b) Upon the entry of the decree, or upon the later effective date of the decree, or upon the dismissal or discontinuance or other final disposition of the petition, the clerk of the court shall seal all records in the proceedings; provided that upon the written request of the petitioner or petitioners, the court may waive the requirement that the records be sealed. The seal shall not be broken and the records shall not be inspected by any person, including the parties to the proceedings, except:
(1) Upon order of the family court upon a showing of good cause;
(2) After the adopted individual attains the age of eighteen and upon submission to the family court of a written request for inspection by the adopted individual or the adoptive parents;
(3) After the adopted individual attains the age of eighteen and upon submission to the family court of a written request for inspection by the natural parents;
(4) Upon request by the adopted individual or the adoptive parents for information contained in the records concerning ethnic background and necessary medical information; or
(5) Upon request by a natural parent for a copy of the original birth certificate.
As used in this subsection, “natural parent” means a biological mother or father, or a legal parent who is not also the biological parent.
(c) The clerk of the court shall keep a docket of all adoption proceedings, which may be inspected only by order of the family court.