Beginning in 2017, New Jersey adult adoptees will have access to their original birth records, following a 34-year battle by adoption activists. NJ Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill into law on May 27 after vetoing similar legislation three years earlier.
The issue was a personal one for Gov. Christie who has an adopted little sister. His sister Dawn is married to a man who is also adopted, and the governor said they struggle with the inability to give their four children details and information about their family. This new legislation will require birth mothers to fill out a document identifying their family health history. This will potentially alert adoptees to what type of health issues they may face.
Three years ago, some Catholic and anti-abortion leaders convinced Gov. Christie to reject the bill, fearing it would harm mothers who gave up babies for adoption but wanted to remain anonymous. This, in turn, would potentially lead to a rise in abortion rates, they feared.
So there was a compromise struck in this legislation. Birth parents giving up their children for adoption will have the option of allowing direct contact, allowing contact through an intermediary or access to medical information only, with continued anonymity. Birth parents who wish to remain anonymous will be encouraged by the Health Department to update health information every 10 years until age 40, and every five years after that.
Long-form birth certificates will be available for all adoptions completed after Aug. 1, 2015. Birth parents for adoptions completed before that date will be allowed to maintain their anonymity by filing with the state registrar by Dec. 31, 2016. However, they must update their medical, social and cultural histories.
In New Jersey, there are approximately 2,400 adoptions per year, according to the Office of Legislative Services. The Garden State joins Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Oregon as the only states in the US with laws allowing adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates.
The attorneys at Posternock Apell, PC are established industry leaders in family law. If you’re facing divorce, looking to adopt a child, seeking a child support modification or anything other family law issue, contact us today to discuss your case.