How to Get a Certified Copy of Adoption Papers

By Jayne Thompson - Updated March 24, 2017

In most states, adoption records are sealed after the adoption process is finalized. Judges have the power to re-open the records, but only for people who are legally entitled to see the information or who can show good reasons why they need a copy. You can access the sealed records by filing an application with the district court clerk in the county where the adoption took place.

Figure Out if You Can Access the Records

In most states, only birth parents, adoptive parents or adoptees can apply to the court for copies of adoption papers. Sometimes a close relative, such as a sibling or the child of a deceased adoptee, can also apply. Rules vary by jurisdiction, so call the district court clerk in the county where the adoption took place and ask if you have the right to access the sealed records.

Petition the Court

Visit the courthouse and tell them you want to open the adoption records – they will give you an application form, which is sometimes called a request form. Fill out the form carefully, giving as much detail as you can about why you want to re-open the record. Sign the application in front of a notary public and make a copy for your records. File the original application in the county where the adoption took place. You’ll need to bring proof of identification and documents that show how you are related to the adoptee.

Be Prepared to Go for Counseling

Receiving adoption information can be highly emotional for some people. The judge may ask you to undergo counseling before hearing your application, or the court can appoint an intermediary to receive the records on your behalf. You can usually choose your own counselor or intermediary, and you will be responsible for paying their fees. It’s a good idea to have someone in mind before you see the judge.

Attend the Hearing

After filing your application, you will be given a hearing in front of a judge who will ask you some questions about your application. Be prepared to answer those questions truthfully, courteously and respectfully. If the judge is satisfied that you have a good reason for re-opening the adoption records, your application will be granted. The judge has sole discretion whether you are entitled to re-open the records, so be aware that your request may be denied.

Collect the Certified Copies

Take a copy of the judge’s ruling and a photo ID to the district court clerk. Ask the clerk to make a certified copy of the adoption records. You may be charged a copying fee. If the judge allows you access through an intermediary, you will have to make an appointment with the intermediary.

About the Author

Jayne Thompson earned an LLB in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LLM in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “big law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.

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