New Jersey Changes Law to Grant Adoptees Access to Their Original Birth Certificate
On May 27th, 2014, S873 passed into law, allowing adoptees access to their New Jersey birth records by law for the first time.
An adoption prompts the creation of a new birth certificate, showing the child’s new name, if changed; date and place of birth; names of adopting parents; and date of filing. Once this new birth certificate is created, the original is sealed. Previously, under 26:8-40.1, the original birth certificate could only be opened by court order. Now, with the passage of S873, an adopted person who is 18 years old or older may request a copy of the original birth certificate. The law allows certain others to request a copy as well, including a direct descendant, sibling or spouse of the adoptee; an adoptive parent, guardian or legal representative; or a state or federal agency for official purposes.
Another change to the law concerns the privacy of the birth parents when an original birth certificate is requested. Under 26:8-40.34, the birth parent may submit a document of contact preference, indicating that the parent would like to be contacted directly, would like to be contacted through an intermediary, or would prefer not to be contacted at all. When filing a document of contact preference, the parent must submit a form of updated family history information, including medical, cultural and social family history. Whenever an original birth record is requested, the contact preference form and family history information are delivered along with the birth certificate.
S873 was approved by Governor Christie on May 27th. Some aspects of the law go into effect immediately, but some parts do not go into effect until August 1, 2015, and still others do not take effect until January 1, 2017. For persons adopted prior to August 1, 2015, birth parents may have their names redacted from the original birth certificate. Birth parents have until December 31, 2016 to make this request if they so desire. The privacy of birth parents is still protected in certain other instances under the law, such as for children surrendered pursuant to the New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act.