Adoptee/Birth Parent FAQs on changes to vital records law

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Original birth certificate availability to adoptees

On May 27, 2014, amendments to the Vital Statistics Act were signed into law.  These amendments provide adult adopted persons and certain other individuals with the opportunity to obtain a non-certified copy of an adopted person's original birth certificate and other related documents, with certain restrictions to protect birth parents’ privacy.

  1. When can adoptees obtain copies of their original birth certificates?
  2. Can anyone other than the adoptee request a copy of the original birth certificate?
  3. How can eligible requestors obtain the Application for an Uncertified Copy of an Adopted Person’s Original Birth Record form?
  4. Do adoptees need to appear in person to receive their original birth certificate?
  5. How long will it take for you to process my request for my original birth certificate and why can’t I pick it up?
  6. Can Birth Parents redact information from the original birth certificate?
  7. Can birth parents state their preference for contact with the adoptee?
  8. Where can a birth parent find the contact preference form and family history questionnaire?
  9. If a birth parent wants the adoptee to contact them, then do they still have to fill out the Family History form?
  10. What will the applicant for the original birth certificate receive?
  11. What does redaction mean?
  12. Do birth parents have to complete any forms?
  13. What does intermediary mean?
  14. Can adoptees receive certified copies of their birth parents’ vital records, such as birth, marriage or death certificates?
  15. If a birth parent indicates they wish to only have contact with their biological child through an intermediary and lists an adoption or State agency as the intermediary, will the OVSR contact the agency to alert them of the possible contact?
  16. What identification is required from an adopted person before they can obtain their Original birth certificate?
  17. Will the OVSR have a list of counseling resources to be shared with birth parents and adult adoptees who may need to speak with a professional regarding information they may or may not receive from their request?
  18. How long is it anticipated to take to fulfill the requests?
  19. The family medical history information that was completed by my birth parent contains medical information that concerns me. How do I find out what impact, if any, this medical information will have on my health?

When can adoptees obtain copies of their original birth certificates?

In November 1940, legislation was enacted that required adopted children’s original birth certificates to be sealed. In accordance with this new law, if a child was adopted on or after November 19, 1940, then his or her original birth certificate was placed in a sealed file and such record could only be accessed pursuant to a court order. On May 27, 2014, Governor Christie amended this vital records law when he signed legislation that allows an adult adoptee, whose Original Birth Certificate was placed in a sealed file, to obtain a non-certified copy of that Original Birth Certificate. P.L. 2014, c. 9.

Pursuant to these statutory amendments, an adoptee may receive a copy of their original birth certificate beginning January 2017. Please note that original birth certificates for any adoptions that occurred prior to November 19, 1940 are available to adult adoptees at any time, upon submission of a suitable application, without a court order.

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Can anyone other than the adoptee request a copy of the original birth certificate?

Yes. Individuals who may receive a copy of the original birth certificate are: an adult adoptee; a direct descendent, sibling or spouse of the adopted person; an adoptive parent, legal guardian, or other legal representative of the adopted person; or an agency of the State or federal government for official purposes. The original birth certificate is NOT open for public access.

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How can eligible requestors obtain the Application for an Uncertified Copy of an Adopted Person’s Original Birth Record form?

The application to request a copy of an adoptee’s original birth certificate is already posted on this website, and can be completed and mailed into the Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics and Registry (OVSR) at any time. [REG 41]  

In addition to the application form, the requestor must also mail to the OVSR proper proof of identity, proof of relationship and/or proof of name change, such as a marriage certificate for a married woman who changed her surname, and payment.

Please note that OVSR will not begin mailing out the records to requestors until January 2017 so as to be in compliance with the law.

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Do adoptees need to appear in person to receive their original birth certificate?

No. All requested certificates will be mailed to the requestor and will not be available for in-person pick-up.

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How long will it take for you to process my request for my original birth certificate and why can’t I pick it up?

Once we receive your request, we must search through hundreds of thousands of paper-based records (some dating back to the 1940’s), not electronic files, and match your request to a sealed record. We then must refer to our electronic Birth Parent Registration system to check for parent’s contact preferences, redaction requests and family history data so as to be sure to release as much information as allowed by the law.   The process is cumbersome and mostly manual, so immediate release of the requested record is not practically possible.

Because it is a lengthy process to locate the documentation relevant to a request, the records are not available for in-person pick-up. Instead, all requests will be mailed out to the requestor. We anticipate being able to mail out the records sometime during the month of January, but the exact turnaround time will depend on the volume of requests received.

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Can Birth Parents redact information from the original birth certificate?

Yes. Birth parents that chose to maintain their privacy by having identifying information redacted were required to submit their request by December 31, 2016.  If the redaction request was mailed to OVSR, then it must be postmarked by December 31, 2016 in order for it to be accepted.  No redactions will be accepted that are postmarked after December 31, 2016, so as to comply with the law.

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Can birth parents state their preference for contact with the adoptee?

The new law provides birth parents with the opportunity to submit to the State Registrar a contact preference form.  On the contact preference form, birth parents can indicate their preference regarding contact with the adopted individual.  The forms of contact that may be selected by a birth parent are:  direct contact, contact through an intermediary, or no contact at this time.  Birth parents will have the opportunity to revise their contact preference at any time.  For the contact preference form to be accepted by the State Registrar, the birth parent must also submit a completed Family History Information form, which includes medical, cultural and social history information pertaining to the birth parent.

Unlike a redaction request, which had to be submitted to the State Registrar by December 31, 2016 in order to be accepted, a birth parent can submit a contact preference form at any time. So, if a birth parent did not submit a redaction request by the December 31st deadline and the birth parent wishes to not have contact with the adoptee, the birth parent can still submit a no contact preference along with the family history form to the State Registrar at any time.  However, in the event a birth parent wishes not to have contact with the adoptee, but does not submit the contact preference prior to the State Registrar’s receipt of a request for and the mailing of the original certificate to the adoptee, then there is a possibility that the adoptee may attempt to make contact with the birth parent as the adoptee will be unaware of the birth parent’s contact preference.

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Where can a birth parent find the contact preference form and family history questionnaire?

The birth parent contact preference form and family history questionnaire based on the law are available on our website. They can be updated at any time, however, if the original birth certificate was requested and mailed to an adoptee prior to the State Registrar receiving a birth parent’s request to change their preference from contact to no contact, the birth parent may still be contacted by that adoptee.

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If a birth parent wants the adoptee to contact them, then do they still have to fill out the Family History form?

Yes. The law requires the Family History Form to be completed when a Contact Preference Form is completed.

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What will the applicant for the original birth certificate receive?

The new law permits an authorized applicant to receive a non-certified copy of the original birth certificate that is on file with the Office of Vital Statistics and Registry. The non-certified copy of the original birth certificate is for informational purposes only and cannot be used for legal proof of identity, citizenship, or as a substitute for an official birth certificate. The copy of the birth certificate will be clearly marked that it is not a certified copy and cannot be used for legal purposes. And, if the adoptee’s birth parent(s) submitted contact preference and family history information to the Office of Vital Statistics and Registry, then the applicant will also receive of a copy of this information.  Additionally, if the birth parents have requested identifying information to be redacted from the birth certification, then the applicant will receive an original birth certificate with that identifying information blacked out.

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What does redaction mean?

Redaction means obscuring or removing sensitive information from a document.   There will be a black box covering any redacted information.

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Do birth parents have to complete any forms?

This process is completely voluntary, but if the birth parent has not requested any information to be redacted by December 31, 2016 and if the adoptee requests an uncertified copy of their original birth certificate, the adoptee will receive it with all information that was recorded at the time of birth.

While the submission of the forms is voluntary, if the birth parent elects to submit a contact preference form, then the birth parent must also submit a family history information form in order for the contact preference form to be accepted by the State Registrar.

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What does intermediary mean?

The person or agency who the birth parent selects to act as a link between themselves and the adoptee.

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Can adoptees receive certified copies of their birth parents’ vital records, such as birth, marriage or death certificates?

No. The adoption severed legal familial bonds to the birth parents so the adoptee does not meet the statutory requirements at N.J.S.A. 26:8-62 for obtaining certified vital records of birth parent(s).

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If a birth parent indicates they wish to only have contact with their biological child through an intermediary and lists an adoption or State agency as the intermediary, will the OVSR contact the agency to alert them of the possible contact?

Yes, the office will contact the named agency alerting them to the fact that they have been listed as an intermediary. However, if the birth parent lists an individual as their intermediary, then it is the birth parent’s responsibility to contact the individual to ensure that he or she is willing to serve in this capacity.   OVSR will not be reaching out to individually named intermediaries.

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What identification is required from an adopted person before they can obtain their Original birth certificate?

 An adult adoptee will need to provide the following identification to obtain a copy of his or her original birth certificate: 

  • A current, valid photo driver's license or photo non-driver's license with the adoptee’s current address; OR
  • A current, valid driver’s license without photo and one alternate form of identification with the adoptee’s current address; OR
  • A copy of the adoptee’s current, legal birth certificate[JKE1] [AVT2] ; OR
  • Two alternate forms of identification, one of which must have the adoptee’s current address:
    • Vehicle registration
    • Vehicle insurance card
    • Voter registration
    • US/Foreign Passport
    • Immigrant Visa
    • Permanent Resident Card (Green card)
    • Government Issued identification: Federal, State, County or Municipal
    • School identification
    • Bank Statement (within previous 90 days)
    • Utility bill (within the previous 90 days)
    • Tax Return or W-2 for current/previous tax year
  • If the adoptee assumed his or her spouse’s/civil union partner’s last name, then the adoptee must also provide a certified copy of his or her marriage/civil union certificate to link the name on the adoptee’s current identification to the name listed on the adoptee’s current, post adoption birth certificate.
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Will the OVSR have a list of counseling resources to be shared with birth parents and adult adoptees who may need to speak with a professional regarding information they may or may not receive from their request?

 The OVSR is working with other State agencies and private agencies to compile a list of counseling resources:

  • NJ Mental Health Cares: www.njmentalhealthcares.org/
    They can be contacted Mon – Fri from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM at 866-202-4357
  • NJ Adoption Resource Clearing House (NJ ARCH):   www.njarch.org
    They can be contacted during regular business hours at 1-877-4ARCHNJ (1-877-427-2465)
  • Dealing with a difficult situation and need someone to talk to? There are specialists available for free and confidential telephone counseling and support 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. Please call to speak with a live person at: 1-855-654-6735
  • Diocese of Metuchen Catholic Charities Counseling Services:
    • Middlesex County:  800-655-9491
    • Hunterdon County:  908-782-7905
    • Warren County:  908-454-2074
    • Somerset County:  908-722-1881
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How long is it anticipated to take to fulfill the requests?

The Department has received hundreds of requests from birth parents and adoptees and is working currently to perform the complex, multi-step search to retrieve certificates and then match those to any birth parent requests. On January 3, 2017, we will begin mailing out records where the search was successfully completed.

Birth parent redaction requests postmarked on December 31, 2016 might take several days to reach the Department of Health, due to possibly longer-than-average mail processing times associated with the holiday weekend. Therefore, it might be several days before additional adoptee applications can be processed and mailed as we need to ensure a careful review of adoptee records and birth parent information.

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The family medical history information that was completed by my birth parent contains medical information that concerns me. How do I find out what impact, if any, this medical information will have on my health?

 If an adoptee receives family medical information from a birth parent that raises concerns, the adoptee should discuss those concerns with his or her physician.

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Last Reviewed: 2/2/2017