In nearly all states, adoption records are sealed and not open for public inspection after the adoption is finalized. Most states have procedures where parties to the adoption may obtain both non-identifying information and identifying information regarding the adoption records. At all times the during the adoption record search, the interest of the all parties must be protected.  There are several different methods for an adopted child to obtain identifying information about their adoption:

  • 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 involved parties. 
  • Mutual Consent – Many states have registries where biological parents and adopted children that have reached the age of 18 can give their consent to release their information, and if both the parent and child give consent, they are given access to the records. 
  • Confidential Intermediary – Other states allow the adoped child to use a state appointed intermediary to locate the biological parents and ask if they are willing to disclose their indentities.  If the biological parents agree, the intermediary will help facilitate a meeting, but 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 takes place, the court and adoption agency maintain records of the process and the parties involved.  There are two kinds of information contained in adoption records:

  • Non-identifying information: Non-identifying information usually includes:
    • date and place of birth
    • age and background of biological parents including a medical history
    • whether giving up the child was voluntary or court-ordered
    • the age and sex of any siblings

Most states require adoption agencies to compile and share this information with the adopting family. 

  • Identifying information: Identifying is information that specifically identifies the biological parents.  This information is sealed by the court when the adoption takes place and is highly protected. Identifying information may include past names of person, addresses, employment information, and other similar information that could be open to the public.

Do I Need a Family Lawyer?

The rules regarding adoption records can vary drastically from state to state and be very complex.  An experienced adoption lawyer can help you understand the best ways to obtain access and also represent you in court.