Access to Adoption Records

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Are the Different Types of Adoptions?

Adoption is a legal procedure where an adult becomes the legal parent of another individual. In the majority of situations, this involves the adoption of a child who is not the biological child of the adopting parent or parents.
Adoption is a process that creates a formal parent-child relationship extending to all areas of the child’s life, including:

  • Custody rights;
  • Inheritance rights;
  • Other purposes.

Typically, individuals think of the adoption of a child when they think of adoption. There are, however, a range of different types of adoptions.

They may involve different types of parental arrangements between various individuals, not just children. Common types of adoption include:

  • Stepparent adoption: This involves a stepparent adopting a stepchild;
    • This arrangement may arise in situations where a stepparent has taken a more active role in raising their stepchild;
  • Adult adoption: The adoption of one adult by another adult. This type of adoption arrangement is common in situations where the adult being adopted requires special medical care or has specific caretaking needs;
  • International adoption: Typically, this involves the adoption of a foreign child, as opposed to a child that is a resident or citizen of the U.S. International adoptions can involve different requirements, many of them more stringent, as compared with domestic adoptions;
    • For example, the procedures for international adoptions may require the adopting party to submit additional forms, including Form I-600 or Orphan Petition form;
  • Equitable adoption: This form of adoption is established by the actions and conduct of a non-biological parent and an adopted child, instead of through a court order;
    • For instance, if the adult has held out a child they adopted as their own during the child’s life, the child may be considered legally adopted even if no formal adoption process took place; and
  • Grandparent adoption: This occurs when a grandparent adopts one of their grandchildren;
    • In many instances, a grandparent will fill in to raise a child if the child’s parents become incapacitated;
    • Over time, the grandparent may wish to legally adopt the child so they are able to make decisions involving the child.

What Is the Purpose of Adoption?

When a child is legally adopted by an adult, that child becomes the adopting adult’s legal heir. The adoption also terminates any legal rights that the child’s biological or natural parents may have.

How Can an Adopted Child Obtain Access to Adoption Records?

In almost every state, adoption records are sealed. This means they are not open for public inspection once the adoption is finalized.

The majority of states have procedures that allow the parties to an adoption to obtain both non-identifying information and identifying information regarding adoption records. During an adoption record search, the interests of all of the parties have to be protected.

There are several different ways an adopted child can obtain identifying information about their adoption, including:

  • Good cause: Most states require a showing of good cause before records are opened. To determine whether good cause exists, the court will weigh the circumstances and desires of all parties involved;
  • Mutual consent: Many states have registries that allow biological parents and adopted children who have reached the age of 18 to give their consent to release their information. If both the parent and child give consent, they are given access to the records; and
  • Confidential intermediary: Other states allow the adopted child to use a state-appointed intermediary to locate the biological parents and ask if they are willing to disclose their identities;
    • If the biological parents agree, an intermediary will help facilitate a meeting. However, if they prefer to remain anonymous, the information will remain sealed unless there is a showing of good cause.

What Information Is in Adoption Records?

When an adoption occurs, the court and the adoption agency will maintain records of the adoption process and all of the parties involved, including the biological parents and adopted children. There are two categories of information that are contained in adoption records, including non-identifying information and identifying information.

Non-identifying information usually includes:

  • The date and place of birth;
  • The age and background of the biological parents, including medical history;
  • Whether giving up the child was voluntary or was court-ordered; and
  • The age and sex of any siblings.

The majority of states require adoption agencies to compile and share this type of non-identifying information with the adopting family. Identifying information is information that specifically identifies the biological parents.

This information is sealed by a court when an adoption happens and is highly protected. Identifying information may include:

  • Past names of individuals;
  • Addresses;
  • Employment information;
  • Other similar information that may be open to the public.

What Is an Open Adoption?

Open adoptions encourage communication between the adoptive and biological parents. Typically, in open adoptions, biological parents have a say in the determination of who will adopt the child.

The adults involved are allowed to freely communicate with one another before, during, and after the adoption. Depending on the state, the biological parents may also be permitted to have ongoing contact with the children, including:

  • Visitation;
  • Telephone calls;
  • Exchanging messages and photos.

It does not, however, mean that the biological parent has the right to make important decisions regarding medical care, schooling, or any other issue that parents with formal parental rights can. Instead, the relationship between the adopted child and the biological parent is one that is regulated by the adoptive parents.

The level of information that is exchanged, as well as the amount of contact between the biological parents and the child, will depend on the comfort level of the individuals involved.

What Is a Closed Adoption?

Closed adoptions are very different from open adoptions. In these adoptions, the biological parents give up all rights they have to the child, and an administrative agency handles the adoption process.

In these cases, the biological parents have little or no input regarding the placement of the child. There is not any contact between the adoptive and biological parents during any stage of the adoption process.

In addition, all contact information for the parties is kept confidential. The adoptive parents will receive some information regarding the medical history of the biological parents to help with the child’s current or future medical treatment. However, there is no other communication during the process.

The parents of the adopted child would not be able to tell the child anything more than what was given to them by the adoption agency. In many cases, a biological parent will purposefully leave behind little or no information in order to prevent contact in the future, even with the child.

How to Get Your Sealed Adoption Records?

If an individual is seeking to obtain their sealed adoption records, they should contact the county clerk of the county where they were adopted. The clerk will explain the process for requesting access to adoption records.

The individual will file a petition to receive their records. These records may be used to prevent adoption disputes.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

The rules that govern adoption records may vary greatly by state and be very complex. If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to adoption, an adoption lawyer can help.

Your lawyer will help you obtain records if needed. Your lawyer will also represent you in court if you must appear in relation to your request.

Save Time and Money - Speak With a Lawyer Right Away

  • Buy one 30-minute consultation call or subscribe for unlimited calls
  • Subscription includes access to unlimited consultation calls at a reduced price
  • Receive quick expert feedback or review your DIY legal documents
  • Have peace of mind without a long wait or industry standard retainer
  • Get the right guidance - Schedule a call with a lawyer today!

16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer