Last month, a 2013 law finally took effect that allows hundreds of thousands of adoptees and their families to gain access to their adoption records and original birth records. In December 2013, Gov. John Kasich signed Ohio Senate Bill 23 into law, which amended state law governing records of adoptions that were finalized between Jan. 1, 1964, and Sept. 18, 1996. Despite being passed more than a year ago, there was a one-year waiting period before adoption records could be requested under the new law. Effective March 20, 2015, adoption records that were previously off-limits can now be requested.
Prior Ohio Law Governing Access to Adoption Records
Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 23, there were three systems for adoptees to obtain identifying information about their biological families:
- Adoptions decreed prior to January 1, 1964;
- Adoptions decreed on or after January 1, 1964, and the adoptee became available or potentially available for adoption prior to September 18, 1996; and
- Adoptees who became available or potentially available for adoption on or after September 18, 1996.
Each category had different rules governing access to adoption records. Pre-1964 adoptees could obtain identifying information about their parents from their adoption records. The same was true for adoptees available after September 18, 1996, unless there was an effective denial from the biological parent.
The Adoption Network Cleveland was the primary driver of the change in this law, advocating for it since the 1980s to finally get it passed in 2013! The Adoption Network Cleveland helps adoptees and birth families in search and reunion and provide support in this area.
New Law Opens Adoption Records for Thousands
Ohio’s new law now permits post-1963 adoptees who became available or potentially available for adoption prior to September 18, 1996, to submit a written request to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) for ODH to provide the adopted person with a copy of the contents of the person’s adoption file. The new law makes it much easier for certain adoptees to access their adoption records and to learn about their biological parents and medical history. It is estimated that the new law affects 400,000 Ohioans, who can now obtain their official birth and adoption records.
The requesting adoptee must be at least 18 years old. Adult lineal descendants (lineal descendants are described as children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the adoptee) may also submit an application for a copy of the adoption file. To submit a request, one must complete a form provided by the Ohio Department of Health and pay the requisite $20 fee.
Contact a Cleveland Adoption Attorney
If you have any questions regarding Ohio’s law governing access to adoption records, Laubacher & Co.’s adoption law attorneys can help. Laubacher & Co.’s Cleveland family attorneys have experience in a variety of family law matters, including divorce, child custody and adoption, spousal support, and domestic violence. Contact our Cleveland family law attorneys today to find out how we can help you.