Original Birth Certificates. West Virginia is a Restricted State. Adopted people born in the state must petition the court and demonstrate good cause in order to obtain a copy of their own original birth certificates.
Court Records. Court records are sealed in adoptions and are not available for release except by court order. While there is a process to obtain identifying information from the courts, it is unclear if this would result in the release of information only or whether it would also include court documents.
I Dissent! Vacating Your Own Adoption. West Virginia has long had a provision in its law that allows an adopted person, upon reaching 18 years of age, to file a “dissent” to the adoption in the circuit court that granted the adoption. If the adoptee files the dissent within one year of turning 18, the “adoption shall be vacated.”
Identifying Information. If participation in West Virginia’s voluntary adoption registry is unsuccessful in obtaining identifying information, an adoptee who is at least 18 years of age may bring a court action for the release of information. If a birth parent does not provide consent to release the information or presumably cannot be found, the court may release identifying information only if there is “evidence of compelling medical or other good cause.”
Adoption Registry. West Virginia maintains a mutual consent voluntary adoption registry through which adult adopted people and birthparents may seek identifying information. One hour of mandatory counseling is required upon registration. Consent is required for release of identifying information, and consent is considered denied if the birthparent has died. There does not appear to be a website or easily available information about the registry.
Adult Adoption. West Virginia law provides for the adoption of adults. Consent “of the person to be adopted shall be the only consent necessary.”
West Virginia Law: Vital Records and Birth Certificates
Relevant parts of West Virginia vital records law. The entire West Virginia vital records statute is available here.
5 § 16-5-13. Registration of infants of unknown parentage
(a) Whoever assumes the custody of a live-born infant of unknown parentage shall report, to the state Registrar, on a form and in a manner prescribed by the state Registrar, the following information:
(1) The date and city or county, or both, of finding;
(2) Sex and approximate birth date of child;
(3) Name and address of the person with whom or the institution with which the child has been placed for care;
(4) Name given to the child by the custodian of the child; and
(5) Other data required by the state Registrar.
(b) The place where the child was found shall be entered as the place of birth.
(c) A report registered under this section shall constitute the certificate of birth for the child.
(d) If the child is identified and a certificate of birth is found or obtained, the report registered under this section shall be placed in a special file and may not be subject to inspection except upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction or as provided by rule.
5 § 16-5-16. Certificate of adoption
(a) When a court of competent jurisdiction has entered an order of adoption in this state, it shall require the preparation of a certificate of adoption on a form prescribed and furnished by the state Registrar. The certificate of adoption shall be certified by the clerk of the court and shall provide:
(1) Facts necessary to locate and identify the certificate of birth of the person adopted or, in the case of a person who was born in a foreign country, evidence from sources determined to be reliable by the court as to the date and place of birth;
(2) Information necessary to establish a new certificate of birth of the person adopted; and
(3) Information sufficient to identify the order of adoption.
(b) Each petitioner shall furnish the information necessary to prepare the certificate of adoption. The court may require any social service or welfare agency or any person having knowledge of the facts to provide the additional information as may be necessary to complete the certificate of adoption.
(c) Whenever an order of adoption is amended, vacated or annulled, the clerk of the court shall prepare a report, which shall include the facts necessary to identify the original certificate of adoption and the facts in the new order necessary to amend the birth record.
(d) Not later than the tenth day of each calendar month, the clerk of the court shall forward to the state Registrar certificates of adoption and reports of annulments or amendments entered in the preceding month, together with the related reports as the state Registrar shall require.
(e) When the state Registrar receives a certificate of adoption, report of annulment of adoption, or amendment of an order of adoption for a person born in a state other than West Virginia, he or she shall forward the certificate or report to the state Registrar in the state of birth.
(f) When the state Registrar receives a certificate of adoption, report of annulment of adoption, or amendment of an order of adoption for a person born in a foreign country, and the person was not a citizen of the United States at the time of birth, the state Registrar shall prepare a “Certificate of Foreign Birth” as provided by subsection (h), section eighteen of this article. If the person was born in Canada, the state Registrar shall send a copy of the certificate of adoption, report of annulment of adoption, or amendment of an order of adoption to the registration authority in Canada.
(g) When the state Registrar receives a certificate of adoption, report of annulment of adoption, or amendment of order of adoption for a person born in a foreign country who was a citizen of the United States at the time of birth, the state Registrar may not prepare a “Certificate of Foreign Birth” but shall notify the adoptive parents or the registrant of the procedures for obtaining a revised certificate of birth through the United States Department of State.
(h) In addition to the information furnished in accordance with subsection (b) of this section, each person whose name is to appear on the certificate of adoption as a parent, whether as an adoptive parent or as a natural parent who joins in the adoption without relinquishing parental rights, shall furnish to the clerk of the circuit court the social security number or numbers issued to the parent. A record of the social security number or numbers shall be forwarded to the state Registrar along with the certificate of adoption, as provided in subsection (d) of this section.
5 § 16-5-18. Certificates of birth following adoption, legitimation, paternity acknowledgment and court determination of paternity
(a) The State Registrar shall establish a new certificate of birth for a person born in West Virginia when he or she receives the following:
(1) A certificate of adoption as provided in section sixteen of this article or a certificate of adoption prepared and filed in accordance with the laws of another state, or a certified copy of the order of adoption, together with the information necessary to identify the original certificate of birth and to establish a new certificate of birth; or
(2) A request that a new certificate be established as prescribed by legislative rule, based upon evidence that:
(A) The person for whom the certificate is sought has been legitimated;
(B) A court of competent jurisdiction has determined the paternity of the person; or
(C) Both parents have acknowledged the paternity of the person.
(b) A new certificate of birth shall show the actual city, county and date of birth, if known, and shall be substituted for the original certificate of birth on file. The original certificate of birth and the evidence of adoption, legitimation, court determination of paternity, or affidavit of paternity may not be inspected except for the administration of the system of vital statistics or the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement, or upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or, in the case of an affidavit of paternity, the signatories to the affidavit or the adult subject of the affidavit, or as provided by legislative rule or as otherwise provided by state law.
(c) Upon receipt of a report of an amended order of adoption, the State Registrar shall amend the certificate of birth as provided by legislative rule.
(d) Upon receipt of a report or order of annulment of adoption, the State Registrar shall restore the original certificate of birth to its place in the files and the new certificate and evidence may not be inspected except for the administration of the system of vital statistics or Bureau for Child Support Enforcement, or upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as provided by legislative rule or as otherwise provided by state law.
(e) Upon receipt of a written request and a sworn affidavit of paternity signed by both parents of a child born out of wedlock, the State Registrar shall place the name of the father on the certificate of birth and, if the child is under the age of eighteen and at the request of the parents, change the surname of the child in the manner prescribed by legislative rule.
(f) If no certificate of birth is on file for the person for whom a new certificate of birth is to be established under this section, a delayed certificate of birth must be filed with the State Registrar as provided in section fourteen or fifteen of this article before a new certificate of birth is established, except that when the date and place of birth and parentage have been established by a court of competent jurisdiction, a delayed certificate is not required.
(g) When a new certificate of birth is established by the State Registrar, all copies of the original certificate of birth in the custody of any other custodian of vital records in this state shall be sealed from inspection or forwarded to the State Registrar, as he or she shall direct.
(h) Upon receipt of the documentation set forth in subdivision (1) of this subsection, the State Registrar shall prepare and register a certificate in this state for a person born in a foreign country who is not a citizen of the United States and who was adopted through a court of competent jurisdiction in this state.
(1) The State Registrar shall establish the certificate upon receipt of:
(A) A certificate of adoption from the court ordering the adoption;
(B) Proof of the date and place of the child’s birth; and
(C) A request that the certificate be prepared, from the court, the adopting parents, or the adopted person if he or she has attained the age of eighteen years.
(2) The certificate shall be labeled “Certificate of Foreign Birth” and shall show the actual country of birth. The certificate shall include a statement that it is not evidence of United States citizenship for the person for whom it is issued.
(3) After registration of the certificate of birth in the new name of the adopted person, the State Registrar shall seal and file the certificate of adoption, which may not be inspected except for the administration of the system of vital statistics, or upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as provided by legislative rule or as otherwise provided by state law.
West Virginia Law: Court Records and Identifying Information
Relevant parts of West Virginia adoption law related to court records and identifying information. The entire West Virginia adoption statute is available here.
§ 48-22-702. Recordation of order; fees; disposition of records; names of adopting parents and persons previously entitled to parental rights not to be disclosed; disclosure of identifying and nonidentifying information; certificate for state registrar of vital statistics; birth certificate
(a) The order of adoption shall be recorded in a book kept for that purpose, and the clerk shall receive the same fees as in other cases. All records of proceedings in adoption cases and all papers and records relating to such proceedings shall be kept in the office of the clerk of the circuit court in a sealed file, which file shall be kept in a locked or sealed cabinet, vault or other container and shall not be open to inspection or copy by anyone, except as otherwise provided in this article, or upon court order for good cause shown. No person in charge of adoption records shall disclose the names of the adopting parent or parents, the names of persons previously entitled to parental rights, or the name of the adopted child, except as otherwise provided in this article, or upon court order for good cause shown. The clerk of the court keeping and maintaining the records in adoption cases shall keep and maintain an index of such cases separate and distinct from all other indices kept or maintained by him or her, and the index of adoption cases shall be kept in a locked or sealed cabinet, vault or other container and shall not be open to inspection or copy by anyone, except as otherwise provided in this article, or upon court order for good cause shown. Nonidentifying information, the collection of which is provided for in article 23-101, et seq., of this chapter [the voluntary adoption registry], shall be provided to the adoptive parents as guardians of the adopted child, or to the adult adoptee, by their submitting a duly acknowledged request to the clerk of the court. The clerk may charge the requesting party for copies of any documents, as provided in section eleven, article one, chapter fifty-nine of this code. Either birth parent may from time to time submit additional social, medical or genetic history for the adoptee, which information shall be placed in the court file by the clerk, who shall bring the existence of this medical information to the attention of the court. The court shall immediately transmit all such nonidentifying medical, social or genetic information to the adoptive parents or the adult adoptee.
(b) If an adoptee, or parent of a minor adoptee, is unsuccessful in obtaining identifying information by use of the mutual consent voluntary adoption registry provided for in 23-101, et seq., identifying information may be sought through the following process:
(1) Upon verified petition of an adoptee at least eighteen years of age, or, if less than eighteen, his or her adoptive parent or legal guardian, the court may also attempt, either itself, or through its designated agent, to contact the birth parents, if known, to obtain their consent to release identifying information to the adoptee. The petition shall state the reasons why the adoptee desires to contact his or her birth parents, which reasons shall be disclosed to the birth parents if contacted. The court and its agent shall take any and all care possible to assure that none but the birth parents themselves are informed of the adoptee’s existence in relationship to them. The court may appoint the bureau of children and families, or a private agency which provides adoption services in accordance with standards established by law, to contact birth parents as its designated agent, the said agent shall report to the court the results of said contact.
(2) Upon the filing of a verified petition as provided in subdivision (1) of this subsection, should the court be unable to obtain consent from either of the birth parents to release identifying information, the court may release such identifying information to the adoptee, or if a minor, the adoptee’s parents or guardian, after notice to the birth parents and a hearing thereon, at which hearing the court must specifically find that there exists evidence of compelling medical or other good cause for release of such identifying information.
(c) Identifying information may only be obtained with the duly acknowledged consent of the mother or the legal or determined father who consented to the adoption or whose rights were otherwise relinquished or terminated, together with the duly acknowledged consent of the adopted child upon reaching majority, or upon court order for good cause shown. Any person previously entitled to parental rights may from time to time submit additional social or medical information which, notwithstanding other provisions of this article, shall be inserted into the record by the clerk of the court.
(d) Immediately upon the entry of such order of adoption, the court shall direct the clerk thereof forthwith to make and deliver to the state registrar of vital statistics a certificate under the seal of said court, showing:
(1) The date and place of birth of the child, if known;
(2) The name of the mother of the child, if known, and the name of the legal or determined father of the child, if known;
(3) The name by which said child has previously been known;
(4) The names and addresses of the adopting parents;
(5) The name by which the child is to be thereafter known; and
(6) Such other information from the record of the adoption proceedings as may be required by the law governing vital statistics and as may enable the state registrar of vital statistics to carry out the duties imposed upon him or her by this section.
(e) Upon receipt of the certificate, the registrar of vital statistics shall forthwith issue and deliver by mail to the adopting parents at their last-known address and to the clerk of the county commission of the county wherein such order of adoption was entered a birth certificate in the form prescribed by law, except that the name of the child shown in said certificate shall be the name given him or her by the order of adoption. The clerk shall record such birth certificate in the manner set forth in section twelve, article five, chapter sixteen of this code.
West Virginia Law: Adoption Generally
Relevant parts of West Virginia adoption law. The entire West Virginia adoption statute is available here.
§ 48-22-201. Persons who may petition for decree of adoption
Any person not married or any person, with his or her spouse’s consent, or any husband and wife jointly, may petition a circuit court of the county wherein such person or persons reside for a decree of adoption of any minor child or person who may be adopted by the petitioner or petitioners: Provided, That if the minor child to be adopted has been removed from a prior home due to an abuse or neglect proceeding, the petition may be filed in the same county as the original abuse and neglect proceeding regarding the minor child.
§ 48-22-301. Persons whose consent or relinquishment is required; exceptions
(a) Subject to the limitations hereinafter set forth, consent to or relinquishment for adoption of a minor child is required of:
(1) The parents or surviving parent of a marital child, whether adult or infant;
(2) The outsider father of a marital child who has been adjudicated to be the father of the child or who has filed a paternity action which is pending at the time of the filing of the petition for adoption;
(3) The birth mother of a nonmarital child, whether adult or infant; and
(4) The determined father.
(b) Consent or relinquishment shall not be required of a parent or of any other person having custody of the adoptive child:
(1) Whose parental rights have been terminated pursuant to the provisions of § 49-4-114 of this code;
(2) Whom the court finds has abandoned the child as set forth in § 48-22-306 of this code; or
(3) Who, in a stepparent adoption, is the birth parent or adoptive parent of the child and is married to the petitioning adoptive parent. In such stepparent adoption, the parent must assent to the adoption by joining as a party to the petition for adoption.
(c) If the mother, legal father, or determined father is under disability, the court may order the adoption if it finds:
(1) The parental rights of the person are terminated, abandoned, or permanently relinquished;
(2) The person is incurably insane; or
(3) The disability arises solely because of age and an otherwise valid consent or relinquishment has been given.
(d) If all persons entitled to parental rights of the child sought to be adopted are deceased or have been deprived of the custody of the child by law, then consent or relinquishment is required of the legal guardian or of any other person having legal custody of the child at the time. If there is no legal guardian nor any person who has legal custody of the child, then consent or relinquishment is required from some discreet and suitable person appointed by the court to act as the next friend of the child in the adoption proceedings.
(e) If one of the persons entitled to parental rights of the child sought to be adopted is deceased, only the consent or relinquishment of the surviving person entitled to parental rights is required.
(f) If the child to be adopted is 12 years of age or over, the consent of the child is required to be given in the presence of a judge of a court of competent jurisdiction, unless for extraordinary cause, the requirement of such consent is waived by the court.
(g) Any consent to adoption or relinquishment of parental rights shall have the effect of authorizing the prospective adoptive parents or the agency to consent to medical treatment for the child, whether or not such authorization is expressly stated in the consent or relinquishment.
§ 48-22-304. Consent or relinquishment by infants
If a person who has executed a consent to or relinquishment for adoption is under eighteen years of age at the time of the filing of the petition, and such infant parent is a resident of the state, the consent or relinquishment shall be specifically reviewed and approved by the court and a guardian ad litem may be appointed to represent the interests of the infant parent. The guardian ad litem shall conduct a discreet inquiry regarding the consent or relinquishment given, and may inquire of any person having knowledge of the consent or relinquishment. If the guardian ad litem finds reasonable cause to believe that the consent or relinquishment was obtained by fraud or duress, the court may request the infant parent to appear before the court or at a deposition, so that inquiry may be made regarding the circumstances surrounding the execution of the consent or relinquishment. The failure of the court to appoint a guardian ad litem is not grounds for setting aside a decree of adoption.
§ 48-22-305. Revocation of consent or relinquishment for adoption
(a) Parental consent or relinquishment, whether given by an adult or minor, may be revoked only if:
(1) The person who executed the consent or relinquishment and the prospective adoptive parent named or described in the consent or the lawyer for said adoptive parent, or the agency in case of relinquishment, agree to its revocation prior to the entry of an adoption order; or
(2) The person who executed the consent or relinquishment proves by clear and convincing evidence, in an action filed either within six months of the date of the execution of the consent or relinquishment or prior to the date an adoption order is final, whichever date is later, that the consent or relinquishment was obtained by fraud or duress; or
(3) The person who executed the consent or relinquishment proves by a preponderance of the evidence, prior to the entry of an adoption order, that a condition allowing revocation as expressly set forth in the consent or relinquishment has occurred; or
(4) The person who executed the consent or relinquishment proves by clear and convincing evidence, prior to the entry of an adoption order, that the consent or relinquishment does not comply with the requirements set forth in this article.
(b) If the custody of a child during the pendency of a petition to revoke a consent or relinquishment is in issue, the court shall conduct a hearing, within thirty days of service of notice upon the respondent, to determine the issue of temporary custody. The court shall award such custody based upon the best interests of the child.
§ 48-22-401. Delivery of child for adoption; written recital of circumstances
Whenever a person delivers a child for adoption the person first receiving such child and the prospective adopting parent or parents shall be entitled to receive from such person a written recital of all known circumstances surrounding the birth, medical and family medical history of the child, and an itemization of any facts or circumstances unknown concerning the child’s parentage or that may require further development in the form of an affidavit from the birth mother consistent with the provisions of section 22-502.
§ 48-22-703. Effect of order as to relations of parents and child and as to rights of inheritance; intestacy of adopted child
(a) Upon the entry of such order of adoption, any person previously entitled to parental rights, any parent or parents by any previous legal adoption, and the lineal or collateral kindred of any such person, parent or parents, except any such person or parent who is the husband or wife of the petitioner for adoption, shall be divested of all legal rights, including the right of inheritance from or through the adopted child under the statutes of descent and distribution of this state, and shall be divested of all obligations in respect to the said adopted child, and the said adopted child shall be free from all legal obligations, including obedience and maintenance, in respect to any such person, parent or parents. From and after the entry of such order of adoption, the adopted child shall be, to all intents and for all purposes, the legitimate issue of the person or persons so adopting him or her and shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges and subject to all the obligations of a natural child of such adopting parent or parents.
(b) For the purpose of descent and distribution, from and after the entry of such order of adoption, a legally adopted child shall inherit from and through the parent or parents of such child by adoption and from or through the lineal or collateral kindred of such adopting parent or parents in the same manner and to the same extent as though said adopted child were a natural child of such adopting parent or parents, but such child shall not inherit from any person entitled to parental rights prior to the adoption nor their lineal or collateral kindred, except that a child legally adopted by a husband or wife of a person entitled to parental rights prior to the adoption shall inherit from such person as well as from the adopting parent. If a legally adopted child shall die intestate, all property, including real and personal, of such adopted child shall pass, according to the statutes of descent and distribution of this state, to those persons who would have taken had the decedent been the natural child of the adopting parent or parents.
§ 48-22-704. Finality of order; challenges to order of adoption
(a) An order or decree of adoption is a final order for purposes of appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeals on the date when the order is entered. An order or decree of adoption for any other purpose is final upon the expiration of the time for filing an appeal when no appeal is filed or when an appeal is not timely filed, or upon the date of the denial or dismissal of any appeal which has been timely filed.
(b) An order or decree of adoption may not be vacated, on any ground, if a petition to vacate the judgment is filed more than six months after the date the order is final.
(c) If a challenge is brought within the six-month period by an individual who did not receive proper notice of the proceedings pursuant to the provisions of this article, the court shall deny the challenge, unless the individual proves by clear and convincing evidence that the decree or order is not in the best interest of the child.
(d) A decree or order entered under this article may not be vacated or set aside upon application of a person who waived notice, or who was properly served with notice pursuant to this article and failed to respond or appear, file an answer or file a claim of paternity within the time allowed.
(e) A decree or order entered under this article may not be vacated or set aside upon application of a person alleging there is a failure to comply with an agreement for visitation or communication with the adopted child: Provided, That the court may hear a petition to enforce the agreement, in which case the court shall determine whether enforcement of the agreement would serve the best interests of the child. The court may, in its sole discretion, consider the position of a child of the age and maturity to express such position to the court.
(f) The Supreme Court of Appeals shall consider and issue rulings on any petition for appeal from an order or decree of adoption and petitions for appeal from any other order entered pursuant to the provisions of this article as expeditiously as possible. The circuit court shall consider and issue rulings on any petition filed to vacate an order or decree of adoption and any other pleadings or petitions filed in connection with any adoption proceeding as expeditiously as possible.
(g) When any minor has been adopted, he or she may, within one year after becoming of age, sign, seal and acknowledge before proper authority, in the county in which the order of adoption was made, a dissent from such adoption, and file such instrument of dissent in the office of the clerk of the circuit court which granted said adoption. The clerk of the county commission of such county and the circuit clerk shall record and index the same. The adoption shall be vacated upon the filing of such instrument of dissent.
West Virginia Law: Adult Adoption
§ 48-22-801. Adoption of adults
Any adult person who is a resident of West Virginia may petition the circuit court or any other court of record having jurisdiction of adoption proceedings for permission to adopt one who has reached the age of eighteen years or over, and, if desired, to change the name of such person. The consent of the person to be adopted shall be the only consent necessary. The order of adoption shall create the same relationship between the adopting parent or parents and the person adopted and the same rights of inheritance as in the case of an adopted minor child. If a change in name is desired, the adoption order shall so state.