New York law denies adult adoptees access to their own original birth certificates, except by court order. Based on how judges have handled adoptee requests to unseal records, New York may be one of the most restrictive states in the U.S. on the issue of access to an original birth certificate.
The state maintains an Adoption Information Registry, a mutual consent registry that provides services to adoptees or birth parents and siblings who seek identifying or non-identifying information.
The Adoptee Rights Law Center is a proud coalition partner in the New York Adoptee Rights Coalition, which works to restore the right of adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates without conditions or restrictions. Join Us.
Relevant New York Law: Original Birth Certificates
Public Health Law § 4138. Birth certificate; new certificate in case of subsequent marriage of unwed parents; adoption; adjudication of parentage; change of name
1. A new certificate of birth shall be made whenever:
(a) proof is submitted to the commissioner that the previously unwed parents of a person have intermarried subsequent to the birth of such person; or,
(b) notification is received by, or proper proof is submitted to, the commissioner from or by the clerk of a court of competent jurisdiction or the parents, or their attorneys, or the person himself, of a judgment, order or decree relating to the parentage; or,
(c) notification is received by, or proper proof is submitted to, the commissioner from or by the clerk as aforesaid of a judgment, order or decree relating to the adoption of such person. Such judgment, order or decree shall also be sufficient authority to make a new birth certificate with conforming change in the name of such person on the birth certificate of any of such person’s children under the age of eighteen years whose record of birth is on file in the state health department; or,
(d) proper proof is submitted to the commissioner by the parents, or their attorneys, or the person himself or his attorney, of a judgment, order or decree relating to a change of name granted by a court of competent jurisdiction. Such judgment, order or decree shall also be sufficient authority to make a new birth certificate with conforming change in surname for any of such person’s children under the age of eighteen years whose record of birth is on file in the state health department; or,
(e) the certificate of birth of a child born out of wedlock as defined in paragraph (b) of subdivision one of section four thousand one hundred thirty-five of this article has been filed without entry of the name of the father and the commissioner thereafter receives the acknowledgment of paternity pursuant to section one hundred eleven-k of the social services law or section four thousand one hundred thirty-five-b of this article executed by the putative father and mother which authorizes the entry of the name of such father, and which may also authorize a conforming change in the surname of the child.
2. (a) On every new certificate of birth made pursuant to this section, a notation that it is filed pursuant to section four thousand one hundred thirty-eight of the public health law shall be entered thereon. Notwithstanding other provisions of 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.
(b) Notwithstanding other provisions of this article, when a petition for adoption by two persons has been duly filed, and one of the petitioners dies before the adoption is complete, such deceased petitioner’s name shall be included on the new certificate as a parent, if such adoption is completed, unless otherwise requested by the other petitioner. (c) If the original certificate of birth contains fictitious names of either or both parents, a new certificate shall not be prepared until notification is received by, or proper proof is submitted to, the commissioner by the clerk of a court of competent jurisdiction or the parents or their attorney, or the person himself, or his attorney, of a judgment, order or decree relating to parentage.
3. (a) When a new certificate of birth is made the commissioner shall substitute such new certificate for the certificate of birth then on file, if any, and shall send the registrar of the district in which the birth occurred a copy of the new certificate of birth. The registrar shall make a copy of the new certificate for the local record and hold the contents of the original local record confidential along with all papers and copies pertaining thereto. It shall not be released or otherwise divulged except by order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
(b) Thereafter, when a verified transcript or certification of birth of such person is issued by the registrar, it shall be based upon the new certificate, except when an order of a court of competent jurisdiction shall require the issuance of a verified transcript or certification based upon the original local record of birth.
4. The commissioner may make a microfilm or other suitable copy of the original certificate of birth and all papers pertaining to the new certificate of birth. In such event, the original certificate and papers may be destroyed. All undestroyed certificates and papers and copies thereof shall be confidential and the contents thereof shall not be released or otherwise divulged except by order of a court of competent jurisdiction or pursuant to section forty-one hundred thirty-eight-c or forty-one hundred thirty-eight-d of this article.
5. Thereafter, when a certified copy or certified transcript of the certificate of birth of such a person, or a certification of birth for such person is issued, it shall be based upon the new certificate of birth, except when an order of a court of competent jurisdiction shall require the issuance of a copy of the original certificate of birth.
6. When the commissioner shall receive proper proof or notification pursuant to paragraphs (a), (b), or (c) of subdivision one of this section relating to a person born outside this state, such proof or notification shall be forwarded to the appropriate registration authority for the place of birth.
7. Whenever the commissioner makes a new birth certificate for any person pursuant to the provisions of subdivision one of this section, he shall forward to such person, if eighteen years of age or more, or to the parents of such person, a certified copy, a certified transcript or a certification of birth, whichever he deems appropriate under the circumstances, without making any charge therefor.
Relevant New York Law: Adoption Court Records
Domestic Relations Law § 114(2-4): Adoption Order
2. No person, including the attorney for the adoptive parents shall disclose the surname of the child directly or indirectly to the adoptive parents except upon order of the court. No person shall be allowed access to such sealed records and order and any index thereof except upon an order of a judge or surrogate of the court in which the order was made or of a justice of the supreme court. No order for disclosure or access and inspection shall be granted except on good cause shown and on due notice to the adoptive parents and to such additional persons as the court may direct. Nothing contained herein shall be deemed to require the state commissioner of health or his designee to secure a court order authorizing disclosure of information contained in adoption or birth records requested pursuant to the authority of section forty-one hundred thirty-eight-c or section forty-one hundred thirty-eight-d of the public health law; upon the receipt of such request for information, the court shall transmit the information authorized to be released thereunder to the state commissioner of health or his designee.
3. In like manner as a court of general jurisdiction exercises such powers, a judge or surrogate of a court in which the order of adoption was made may open, vacate or set aside such order of adoption for fraud, newly discovered evidence or other sufficient cause.
4. Good cause for disclosure or access to and inspection of sealed adoption records and orders and any index thereof, hereinafter the “adoption records”, under this section may be established on medical grounds as provided herein. Certification from a physician licensed to practice medicine in the state of New York that relief under this subdivision is required to address a serious physical or mental illness shall be prima facie evidence of good cause. Such certification shall identify the information required to address such illness. Except where there is an immediate medical need for the information sought, in which case the court may grant access to the adoption records directly to the petitioner, the court hearing petition under the subdivision shall appoint a guardian ad litem or other disinterested person, who shall have access to the adoption records for the purpose of obtaining the medical information sought from those records or, where the records are insufficient for such purpose, through contacting the biological parents. The guardian or other disinterested person shall offer a biological parent the option of disclosing the medical information sought by the petitioner pursuant to this subdivision, as well as the option of granting consent to examine the parent’s medical records. If the guardian or other disinterested person appointed does not obtain the medical information sought by the petitioner, such guardian or disinterested person shall make a report of his or her efforts to obtain such information to the court. Where further efforts to obtain such information are appropriate, the court may in its discretion authorize direct disclosure or access to and inspection of the adoption records by the petitioner.