Utah enacted a new law in 2020 that did little to advance the rights of adopted people. The law merely made discriminatory restrictions applicable to all adopted people who were born in the state. Here’s how it works.
What does the 2020 law do?
The law removes a date-based restriction, among other provisions. Prior to the new law, only adult adoptees whose adoptions were finalized after 2015 had any right to request or potentially access adoption documents. The prior law also required the prior written consent of birthparents to release the records.
The new law now applies to all adult adoptees born in Utah, not just those whose adoptions were finalized after 2015. It allows adult adoptees to request their own birth certificates, but it requires birthparents to consent to the release of the original birth certificate before it is released. If there are no consents on file and you cannot show that the birthparent(s) are deceased, no records are released. The consent provision of the law is informally called a “Mommy May I” provision.
What are adoption documents?
Utah law defines an adoption document as “an adoption-related document filed with the office [of vital records], a petition for adoption, a decree of adoption, an original birth certificate, or evidence submitted in support of a supplementary birth certificate.”
Who can request a copy their own original birth certificate?
Adult adoptees. An adult adoptee is defined by Utah law as “an adoptee who is 18 years of age or older and was adopted as a minor.” The law, however, only applies to adult adoptees who were born in Utah. It would not apply to adoptees who were born outside of Utah but adopted in the state.
Will I get my original birth certificate when I request it?
Probably not. It takes either the consent or death of birthparents to release any records, and consent must be on file with the Office of Vital Records before any OBC is released.
What if I can show that my birthparents are dead?
You will receive an unredacted copy of your original birth certificate if the birthparents listed on the original birth record are deceased, even if there are no prior consents on file.
What if I two birthparents are listed on my original birth certificate but only one is dead?
To receive anything, at least one parent must consent to the release of the records or be deceased. If one parent is listed on the original birth record and that parent has consented to release or is dead, you will receive an unredacted copy of the original birth certificate. If two parents are listed on the original birth certificate and only one has consented or is deceased, you will receive a redacted record that removes the name of the other parent.
I don’t know the names of my birthparents. How am I supposed to prove that they are dead?
This is unclear, and there is nothing in the new law that requires the state to search its vital records or voluntary registry to determine if death certificates are on file for any listed birthparents. Presumably, if there are no consents on file and you do not know the names of the birthparents and thus cannot prove they are deceased, you will not receive a copy of your original birth certificate.
Will I receive any other documents other than the original birth certificate, assuming I can even get that?
Unlikely. While an adoption document is defined to include court-related documents that were used to establish the amended birth certificate, the law only states that a birthparent can consent to “allow the office to provide the adult adoptee with a noncertified copy of the original birth certificate.” It is doubtful you will have access to any other documents without obtaining a court order.
How do I apply?
The Utah Office of Vital Records requires that you use its existing Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry, a state registry that Utah uses to match birthparents, adoptees, and siblings. While nominally the registry is voluntary, you must join the registry if you want to request your own original birth certificate. The fee to join the registry is $25 and can be paid online or as part of a paper application.
What can a birthparent file with the registry under the new law?
A birthparent may consent to release contact information and to “allow the office [of vital records] to provide the adoptee with a noncertified copy of the original birth certificate.” The birthparent may also elect to attach a medical history form or other information. The options available to a birthparent who joins the Utah registry include:
- Do not share my contact information if a match is found.
- Share my contact info as listed below.
- Share my intermediary’s contact information – entered below
- I want to receive contact information if a match is found.
- I want to share medical history or other info (please attach)
- I consent to release a non-certified copy of the birth certificate to [the] adult adoptee
What if a birthparent chooses to share contact information but refuses to allow the release of the OBC?
This is unclear. The choices given to a birthparent through the registry (see image at right/below) do not appear to be dependent choices. That is, a birthparent could choose to share his or her contact information but could, independently, choose to withhold consent to release the adoptee’s original birth certificate. The dynamic created by such a case would be untenable and subject to significant abuse or manipulation. The adoptee must depend entirely on “convincing” a birthparent to agree to release the adoptee’s own OBC, giving significant power and control over the adoptee as well as the document.
Is the copy of the original birth certificate a certified record?
No. The copy that is provided—including any redactions of birthparents—will be a noncertified copy. This typically means it will be printed on plain paper (not on colored security paper) and it will not be embossed or stamped as containing the true facts recorded in the issuing office.
Where is the form that I use to join the Utah Adoption Registry?
How long will it take to obtain a copy of my original birth certificate?
This is not known. Again, however, release of your own OBC to you will depend primarily on two things 1) consent of the birthparent after registering with the Utah Adoption Registry or ) proof of death of one or both birthparents.
Could my own original name be redacted?
Yes. While the law specifically limits redaction to “the name of the other birth parent,” administrative rules that have been developed to implement the new law state that the OBC “may not reflect identifiable information of an individual that is not registered with the Adoption Registry or who has not consented to the release of an original birth certificate.” If you share a last name or any “identifiable information” with a nonconsenting parent, it is possible that all or part of your name could be redacted.
Do descendants of the adopted person have any rights to request the original birth certificate?
No. There are no specific rights for descendants of adoptees under the new law. Descendants are also not eligible to register for the Utah Adoption Registry.
Can I read the enacted bill?
Yep. The enacted bill can be reviewed here.
Are there published rules to implement the new law?
Do you have a flowchart of how the law works today?
Of course. Here it is.