Missouri law does not give adult adoptees unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates. A new law, effective January 1, 2018, provides access to an original birth certificate subject to significant restrictions, including birthparent vetoes and redactions.
Under the new law, adoptees who are 18 years of age or older may request the original birth certificate. A birthparent, however, may prohibit access to an adoptee’s original birth certificate by filing a corrupt “contact preference form” that says “I prefer not to be contacted.” Depending on whether one or two parents are listed on the original birth certificate, the OBC is either withheld entirely from the adoptee or identifying information is redacted. In addition, under regulations adopted by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, identifying information on the OBC is also redacted if a parent requests contact through an intermediary. It is unclear if this regulation will be challenged, as no provision in the current law allows for redaction in such circumstances.
Missouri law also creates zombie vetoes—that is, a birth parent’s disclosure veto extends beyond the parent’s death and will continue to prohibit the release of an original birth certificate to the adoptee.
Relevant Missouri Law: Original Birth Certificates
1. This section and section 193.128 shall be known and may be cited as the “Missouri Adoptee Rights Act”.
2. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3 of this section, for each adoption decreed by a court of competent jurisdiction in this state, the court shall require the preparation of a certificate of decree of adoption on a form as prescribed or approved by the state registrar. The certificate of decree of adoption shall include such facts as are necessary to locate and identify the certificate of birth of the person adopted, and shall provide information necessary to establish a new certificate of birth of the person adopted and shall identify the court and county of the adoption and be certified by the clerk of the court. The state registrar shall file the original certificate of birth with the certificate of decree of adoption and such file may be opened by the state registrar only upon receipt of a certified copy of an order as decreed by the court of adoption or in accordance with section 193.128.
3. No new certificate of birth shall be established following an adoption by a stepparent if so requested by the adoptive parent or the adoptive stepparent of the child.
4. Information necessary to prepare the report of adoption shall be furnished by each petitioner for adoption or the petitioner’s attorney. The social welfare agency or any person having knowledge of the facts shall supply the court with such additional information as may be necessary to complete the report. The provision of such information shall be prerequisite to the issuance of a final decree in the matter by the court.
5. Whenever an adoption decree is amended or annulled, the clerk of the court shall prepare a report thereof, which shall include such facts as are necessary to identify the original adoption report and the facts amended in the adoption decree as shall be necessary to properly amend the birth record.
6. Not later than the fifteenth day of each calendar month or more frequently as directed by the state registrar the clerk of the court shall forward to the state registrar reports of decrees of adoption, annulment of adoption and amendments of decrees of adoption which were entered in the preceding month, together with such related reports as the state registrar shall require.
7. When the state registrar shall receive a report of adoption, annulment of adoption, or amendment of a decree of adoption for a person born outside this state, he or she shall forward such report to the state registrar in the state of birth.
8. In a case of adoption in this state of a person not born in any state, territory or possession of the United States or country not covered by interchange agreements, the state registrar shall upon receipt of the certificate of decree of adoption prepare a birth certificate in the name of the adopted person, as decreed by the court. The state registrar shall file the certificate of the decree of adoption, and such documents may be opened by the state registrar only by an order of court. The birth certificate prepared under this subsection shall have the same legal weight as evidence as a delayed or altered birth certificate as provided in section 193.235.
9. The department, upon receipt of proof that a person has been adopted by a Missouri resident pursuant to laws of countries other than the United States, shall prepare a birth certificate in the name of the adopted person as decreed by the court of such country. If such proof contains the surname of either adoptive parent, the department of health and senior services shall prepare a birth certificate as requested by the adoptive parents. Any subsequent change of the name of the adopted person shall be made by a court of competent jurisdiction. The proof of adoption required by the department shall include a copy of the original birth certificate and adoption decree, an English translation of such birth certificate and adoption decree, and a copy of the approval of the immigration of the adopted person by the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the United States government which shows the child lawfully entered the United States. The authenticity of the translation of the birth certificate and adoption decree required by this subsection shall be sworn to by the translator in a notarized document. The state registrar shall file such documents received by the department relating to such adoption and such documents may be opened by the state registrar only by an order of a court. A birth certificate pursuant to this subsection shall be issued upon request of one of the adoptive parents of such adopted person or upon request of the adopted person if of legal age. The birth certificate prepared pursuant to the provisions of this subsection shall have the same legal weight as evidence as a delayed or altered birth certificate as provided in sections 193.005 to 193.325.
10. If no certificate of birth is on file for the person under twelve years of age who has been adopted, a belated certificate of birth shall be filed with the state registrar as provided in sections 193.005 to 193.325 before a new birth record is to be established as result of adoption. A new certificate is to be established on the basis of the adoption under this section and shall be prepared on a certificate of live birth form.
11. If no certificate of birth has been filed for a person twelve years of age or older who has been adopted, a new birth certificate is to be established under this section upon receipt of proof of adoption as required by the department. A new certificate shall be prepared in the name of the adopted person as decreed by the court, registering adopted parents’ names. The new certificate shall be prepared on a delayed birth certificate form. The adoption decree is placed in a sealed file and shall not be subject to inspection except upon an order of the court.
1. The provisions of section 193.125 and this section shall be known and may be cited as the “Missouri Adoptee Rights Act”.
2. Notwithstanding section 453.121 to the contrary, an adopted person or the adopted person’s attorney may obtain a copy of such adopted person’s original certificate of birth from the state registrar in accordance with this section.
3. In order for an adopted person to receive a copy of his or her original certificate of birth, the adopted person shall:
(1) Be at least eighteen years of age;
(2) Have been born in this state; and
(3) File a written application with and provide appropriate proof of identification to the state registrar.
4. The state registrar may require a waiting period and impose a fee for issuance of the uncertified copy under subsection 5 of this section. The fees and waiting period imposed under this subsection shall be identical to the fees and waiting period generally imposed on nonadopted persons seeking their own certificates of birth.
5. Upon receipt of a written application and proof of identification under subsection 3 of this section and fulfillment of the requirements of subsection 4 of this section, the state registrar shall issue an uncertified copy of the unaltered original certificate of birth to the applicant. The copy of the certificate of birth shall have the following statement printed on it: “For genealogical purposes only – not to be used for establishing identity.”.
6. A birth parent may, at any time, request from the state registrar a contact preference form that shall accompany the original birth certificate of an adopted person. The contact preference form shall include the following options:
(1) “I would like to be contacted”;
(2) “I prefer to be contacted by an intermediary”; and
(3) “I prefer not to be contacted”.
A contact preference form may be updated by a birth parent at any time upon the request of the birth parent. A contact preference form completed by a birth parent at the time of the adoption and forwarded to the state registrar by the clerk of the court shall accompany the original birth certificate of the adopted person and may be updated by the birth parent at any time upon the request of the birth parent.
7. If both birth parents indicate on the contact preference form that they would prefer not to be contacted, a copy of the original birth certificate of the adopted person shall not be released. If only one birth parent indicates on the contact preference form that he or she would prefer not to be contacted, his or her identifying information shall be redacted from a copy of the original birth certificate of the adopted person and the copy of the original birth certificate shall be released under the provisions of this section.
8. A birth parent may, at any time, request a medical history form from the state registrar and the state registrar shall provide a medical history form to any birth parent who requests a contact preference form. The medical history form shall include the following options:
(1) “I am not aware of any medical history of any significance”;
(2) “I prefer not to provide any medical information at this time”; and
(3) “I wish to give the following medical information”.
A medical history form may be updated by a birth parent at any time upon the request of the birth parent.
9. A contact preference form or a medical history form received by the state registrar shall be placed in a sealed envelope upon receipt from the birth parent and shall be considered a confidential communication from the birth parent to the adopted person. The sealed envelope shall only be released to the adopted person requesting his or her own original birth certificate under the provisions of this section.
10. If a birth parent indicates on the contact preference form that he or she would prefer not to be contacted, the adopted person shall have access to a copy of the medical history form with the identifying information of such birth parent redacted.
11. The cost of a contact preference form shall not exceed the cost of obtaining an original birth certificate. There shall be no charge for a medical history form.
12. Beginning August 28, 2016, there shall be a public notification period to allow time for birth parents to file a contact preference form. Beginning January 1, 2018, original birth certificates shall be issued under the provisions of this section. An adopted person born prior to 1941 shall be given access to his or her original birth certificate beginning August 28, 2016.
13. The state registrar shall develop by rule the application form required by this section and may adopt other rules for the administration of this section. Any rule or portion of a rule, as that term is defined in section 536.010, that is created under the authority delegated in this section shall become effective only if it complies with and is subject to all of the provisions of chapter 536 and, if applicable, section 536.028. This section and chapter 536 are nonseverable and if any of the powers vested with the general assembly under chapter 536 to review, to delay the effective date, or to disapprove and annul a rule are subsequently held unconstitutional, then the grant of rulemaking authority and any rule proposed or adopted after August 28, 2016, shall be invalid and void.