Where and How TO Get an Original PRE-ADOPTION Birth Certificate (IF You Can Get One at All)
I monitor the laws in all fifty states, plus the District of Columbia, and summarize any restrictions that limit an adult adoptee’s right to obtain an original birth certificate. As of November 3, 2022, adult adopted people born in twelve states (indicated by ) have the right to request and obtain a copy of their own original birth certificates. Vermont recently enacted a new law that will bring that number to thirteen on July 1, 2023.
A key to the symbols and colors is listed below. For a summary of a particular state’s law, click on a state name or on the map below. A changelog also records changes and updates to the individual state listings.
District of Columbia
Map of the United States
Pick a state for a short description of its current law along with a link for more information. Additional maps are available here.
US OBC Rights 2022
Key to Symbols/Colors
Unrestricted means that there are no discriminatory restrictions to obtain an original birth certificate, other than reasonable age requirements and a normal fee paid to the state for a copy of the OBC.
Restricted means the state requires a court order for an adult adoptee to obtain a copy of the original birth certificate. In some states, a parent’s permission to release the record is the primary restriction, other than a court order. In either event release is controlled by the court or by parents.
Compromised means that a state may in some cases provide a copy of the original birth certificate without requiring a court order. States may require numerous conditions or restrictions, including date of adoption, redaction of information on the OBC, or the use of a search registry for obtaining an OBC. Compromised may also include states where a required fee greatly exceeds the fee normally paid to obtain a government vital record.
States where the fee or cost required to obtain an OBC greatly exceed the normal fee required for a government birth record.
Adoption Registry Requirement
States where the OBC may become available only through participation in a mutual consent adoption registry.
Date-based restrictions give some but not all adoptees greater rights to obtain a copy of their own original birth certificates, based on the adoptee’s date of birth or adoption. Such restrictions can also be called “tiered-access,” “donut holes,” or “sandwiches,” depending on the range and scope of applicable dates.
States where identifying information can be removed from the OBC, typically through black box “redaction” and as a result of birth parent objection to release of the OBC.
Disclosure Veto/Birth Parent Consent
States where either 1) birth parent consent is required before release of an OBC; or 2) a birth parent legally prohibits the release of the OBC by use of a “disclosure veto”). In either case, the OBC is not released. At least one state also allows an adoptive parent to file a disclosure veto.
Adoption Court Records Only
States where an adult adopted person can request and obtain adoption court records, limiting the ability to obtain the original birth certificate directly from the vital records office. In addition, adopted people who are born in a state but adopted in a different state do not have a court file in their state of birth and thus have no recourse to obtain their OBC through a court file.
States where 1) a disclosure veto continues beyond the death of a birth parent or 2) where any required consent is deemed unavailable even after the birth parent dies.
Pile of Poo
States where the law purports to provide a right to a non-certified copy of an original birth record but the actual record provided ends up something far more limited, such as a summary of the record or a list of some information on the record. Basically, I’m miffed about what Pennsylvania provides to adult adopted people.
Release of the OBC is linked to graduation from high school, passage of the GED, or proof of legal withdrawal from school.
Pending Legislation or New Law Not Yet in Effect
States where reform legislation is currently pending or where newly enacted laws are still being implemented.
A changelog records any updates to this page and to individual state summaries.
WHAT’S AN ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
An original birth certificate (sometimes abbreviated as “OBC”) is the birth certificate created shortly after a person’s birth. For most people, it remains their only birth certificate.
For persons born and adopted in the United States, a new or “amended” birth certificate replaces the OBC after the adoption is final. In addition to replacing the original, the names of the birthparents are also replaced with the names of the adoptive parents. Some states may also alter or omit additional information on a new certificate, including the adopted person’s specific place of birth. For adopted people, the original birth certificate is a vital record of birth before the adoption, which is why it is also called a “pre-adoption” birth certificate.
Depending on state law, the original birth certificate is sealed and remains unavailable to adopted people even when they are adults. If you are not adopted, your original birth certificate remains your only birth certificate, and it is always available to you upon request. That’s not the case for nearly all adopted people in the United States.