Where, and How, You Can Get an Original Birth Certificate (Assuming 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 January 15, 2020, adult adopted people in ten states (indicated by ) have the right to obtain their own original birth certificates upon request.
The key is listed below. For a summary of a particular state’s law, click on the state’s name.
District of Columbia
Our changelog records any updates to this page and to individual state summaries.
Key to Symbols
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.
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, consent of a birth parent, 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.
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.