Adopted people in New Jersey might want to learn about their birth families but may be unsure of how they can access the information they need. State law allows them to access their original birth certificates.
How New Jersey Adoptees Can Learn About Their Birth Parents
New Jersey adoptees may wonder about their birth families and potential blood relatives. They may be curious about their family histories, ancestry and genetic medical records, and finding their birth family can help answer a lot of questions. A state law that went into effect in 2017 allows adoptees to request their original birth certificates.
New Jersey Laws on Adoptees’ Birth Records
In New Jersey, state laws give adoptees rights to access some types of information about their birth records and biological parents. In the past, these requests were not always possible or easy. The state government enacted laws that sealed the original birth certificates of children who were adopted on November 19, 1940, or any time thereafter. In order to access their birth records, adoptees had to apply for a court order that may or may not have been granted. This meant that many adoptees were left with unanswered questions about their origins and ancestry.
Changes to the Law
In 2014, the vital records law was amended to allow now-adult adoptees to obtain non-certified copies of their original birth certificates. There are a few things that you should know about how you can access your original birth records under New Jersey adoption law. You can contact our NJ adoption attorney for more information about the process.
Who Can Obtain an Original Birth Certificate
There are several categories of people who are entitled, under New Jersey state law, to receive a copy of the original birth certificate of the adoptee. These are all people who are directly linked to the adoptee. Those who can access original birth certificates include:
- The adult adoptee himself or herself
- The adoptee’s direct descendants
- The sibling or spouse of the adoptee
- The adoptive parent, legal guardian or other representative of the adoptee
- Any New Jersey state agency or federal government department for purposes related to their official conduct
While a number of individuals have a right to access formerly sealed birth records, this right does not belong to the public in general. There is no public access provided to adoptees’ original birth certificates.
Applying for a Birth Certificate Copy
If you fit into one of the named categories listed above, you can formally request from the state a copy of the original birth certificate of an adoptee. You can complete the request form from the state and mail it to the state Office of Vital Statistics and Registry (OVSR). Birth certificates must be requested via mail and cannot be obtained in person.
In addition to the form itself, applicants must also submit proof of their identity, proof of their relationship to the adoptee, any records of a name change and payment of the required fee.
Birth Parents’ Privacy Rights
After the 2014 changes were signed into law by then-Governor Chris Christie, birth parents were given until December 31, 2016, to submit any requests to redact information from the record. If the redaction request was not filed by that date, it was not accepted by the state.
New Jersey adoption laws allow birth parents to provide contact preferences to the state registrar. The parents can say whether they prefer direct contact, contact through an intermediary or no contact at this time, although these preferences do not create a binding obligation. In order to submit a contact preference, birth parents must also submit a Family History Information form that provides additional medical history as well as social and cultural information.
Birth parents who previously requested that their information be redacted prior to the 2016 deadline but have since changed their minds can contact the state to change their preferences.
Adoption can raise a number of questions for adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents navigating the emotional and legal frameworks of New Jersey adoption law. To set up an appointment with our NJ adoption attorney, reach out to the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman. Donald J. Cofsky has years of experience representing families in adoption matters. You can call our office in Haddonfield at (856) 429-5005 or in Woodbury at (856) 845-2555 to set up a consultation.