Florida-born adoptees contact me frequently, typically with one question: how do I get my own original birth certificate? My answer is almost always “you can’t, except by permission or death.” But here’s how it is done, and I provide this as a resource for the hundreds of Florida adopted people who contact me and want to know what, if anything, they can do.
First, don’t get too excited. I categorize Florida as a “restricted” state, which means that you can generally only get your own original birth certificate through a court order. This is still widely true, with one exception that I discuss in more detail below: getting permission from birthparents to release your own birth record.
General History and Overview
I’ve written about Florida many times, and I have also published a report on the history of sealed birth records in the state. In general, until 1977, Florida-born adopted people had an unrestricted right to request and obtain their own original birth certificates. After Betty Mullarkey had to sue the state in 1976 to get her original birth record under the law at that time, the state legislature subsequently changed the law and began to regulate birth records like court and adoption records; that is, they restricted birth certificates and made them available only by court order.
Over the years, however, the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics allowed the original birth certificate to be released to the adult adopted person if the birthparents named on the certificate—as well as the adopted person’s adoptive parents—agreed in writing to release it. If any of the birthparents or adoptive parents had died, however, a death certificate for that parent could substitute for written consent. This is generally still the law today, though under current law the vital statistics bureau no longer requires adoptive parent permission for an adult adoptee. Adoptive parent permission, however, is required for an adoptee who is younger than 18.
Current Policy: Permission
If your birthparents listed on the original record have provided written permission to release the original birth certificate, it may be released to you. This applies to all parents listed on the birth certificate. If only the mother is listed on the original birth record (which is typically but not always the case) then only her written permission is required. If both parents are listed, both parents must provide written consent to release your own original birth certificate, unless either or both are dead. How death gets involved in this is discussed next.
Current Practice: Death
If one or both birthparents are dead, providing a death certificate of a deceased parent will substitute for permission to release the original birth record. But getting a death certificate may not be easy, as many states restrict who can request one and often limit it to “legal” (that is, adopted) children, disallowing biological children who were later adopted. If the parent died in Florida, however, Florida allows release of an informational copy of the death certificate, which should suffice. Forms and information for Florida death certificates are here. If they died outside of Florida, you will need to check the place of death to determine if what requirements exist to obtain a copy of the death certificate.
Current Practice: Death + Permission
If two parents are listed on the birth certificate and only one is dead, you will need consent from the parent who is still alive plus a copy of the death certificate of the parent who is deceased. Obviously, if both parents are dead, you will need copies of death certificates for both.
Can a Birth Certificate be Redacted?
This question comes up when there are two birthparents listed on the original birth certificate and 1) only one consents to release the information and 2) the other parent is not known, is dead and a death certificate is unavailable, or refuses to provide written consent for release. I recently verified with Florida officials that the Bureau of Vital Statistics will redact information for a parent who is listed on the birth record but either has not consented to release or is deceased but proof of death is unavailable.
Forms to Use
I have uploaded the forms that the Bureau of Vital Statistics provides, but you should also check its website to determine if the forms have been updated in any way. The forms are generally not easy to find on the bureau’s website. They are filed under Amendments and Corrections and then under the category Release of Original Birth Certificate.
Feel free to leave questions in the comments section below. Though I cannot guarantee I can answer it, other Florida adoptees who read your comment may actually have a solid answer. Also, if you are looking for an attorney to help you petition the court in Florida for your OBC or for additional sealed records (such as court or agency records), I cannot help with that. I’m licensed to practice state law in Minnesota, but not in Florida. 🙁