New Ohio Adoption Law Helps Adult Adoptees Find Their Original Birth Parents
A new law in Ohio will unseal records for about 400,000 Ohio adult adoptees. This law, Senate Bill 23, was signed by Gov. John Kasich on December 19th. This new law will unseal records and allow these adoptees to find out who their birth parents are. This is done by allowing adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates, which list their birth parents.
According to Adoption Network Cleveland founder and Executive Director, Betsie Norris, this legislation was the sixth attempt to address this issue in the past 25 years. “Birth parents, adoptees, adoptive parents and adoption scholars and professionals all testified in favor of this bill,” she said. “There was no stated opposition, and we are also thrilled that the bill had such overwhelming support in the Ohio Legislature.”
The previous law regarding this type of discovery was very convoluted. Essentially, one law had three separate requirements depending on your age and the time period in which you were adopted. Previously for the adoptees, anyone adopted prior to 1964 had to pay a 20 dollar fee and make a request in order to receive their original birth certificate. This portion was fairly straight forward, and is essentially what the new lawhas morphed into, minus the age requirements. The second part of the previous law was a bit stricter. If you were adopted from 1964-1996, you could only receive your birth certificate with a court order. These court orders were quite rare. Finally, if you were adopted after 1996, you could pay a 20 dollar fee to obtain your birth certificate- unless your parents requested that the file be sealed. If the birth parents requested a sealed file, there was nothing that the adoptee could do to obtain their records.
The new law doesn’t change the fact that children adopted after 1996, whose parents requested their files be sealed, will not be able to access these birth certificates. The main effect this law will have is for the middle section of adoptees, born between Jan. 1, 1964 and Sept. 16, 1996. These adoptees will now be able to pay a 20 dollar fee, file a request, and obtain their birth certificates.
This law for adoptees is significant as these individuals were often unable to obtain their records without a lengthy and expensive process. Accordingly, this could have positive impacts on older adoptees that are getting married and looking to have children. Even if they’re not intrigued by learning who their birth parents are, they will be able to access these records and look into their family’s health history in order to have a better idea of health situations or concerns for their future children.
What Can Be Hidden To The Adoptee?
A possible negative impact of the new legislation is that birth mothers that gave a child up for adoption prior to 1996, and decided to conceal this information, may not have a choice anymore. However, there is a process in place that birth parents can each take in order to remain hidden to the adoptee. First, the birth parents must file a Contact Preference Form (“CPF”). This form outlines whether or not the birth parent wants to be contacted, and how to contact a birth parent if he or she wishes to be contacted. Next, the birth parents must give this form to a third party agency which will then handle the adoptees request to contact. It is important to note though that birth parents must file these forms individually, and cannot file for each other.
Further building on the CPF provision is the birth parent redaction provision. This provision of the new law allows birth parents to file a request to have their name redacted from the original birth certificate, and any other information that the adoptee might receive, effectively sealing their identity. Upon filing, the state will request that the birth parent submit medical records, as these may be very important to adoptees considering children of their own. It is also important to note that this provision is not permanent. A birth parent can come forward at any future time and have the redaction form vacated, restoring their identity and allowing the adoptee to find out who they are. This may be an effective tool for birth parents that are not emotionally ready for their adoptee children to discover them. The birth parent redaction provision would essentially delay the process. This provision does expire in March of 2015, meaning birth parents must file before then or their names cannot be redacted from the prospective forms.
In Ohio, New Law Gives Adoptees Easier Access To Adoption Records
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.