As an adoptee, it’s common to have questions about your birth parents and biological family history. One of the best ways to get answers to questions about your past is by accessing your adoption records.

While each state has its own laws on how to access records and what information is available to view, it may be difficult to obtain your adoption records once they’re sealed. Before unsealing your records, you’ll want to speak with an adoption attorney to learn more about the legal complexities involved in the process.

In the meantime, here are five FAQs about unsealing adoption records as an adoptee.

1. What Are Adoption Records?

Each adoption that occurs in the United States has adoption records that contain identifying information about the birth parents, including:

  • Their names
  • Their address at the time of the adoption
  • Their phone number at the time of the adoption

Because most adoptions today are open, many adoptees that are at least 18 years old can readily access their records without having to unseal them.

2. Are Adoption Records Public?

Adoption records are typically sealed and the general public will not have access to this highly private information. If the birth parents have not consented to the release of identifiable information, the information won’t be unsealed without a court order and a reasonable cause.

While each state varies on how you can unseal adoption records, as an adoptee, you’ll always have access to non-identifying information that includes your date and place of birth, the age of your birth parents and their genetic description, race and more.

3. Can You View Adoption Records Online?

If you’re looking for non-identifiable information, then you may be able to find some information on adoption registry websites, but it’s best to contact your local county clerk from the county you were adopted. They can give you more information on the process of unsealing adoption records in a way that follows state laws.

4. How Long Are Adoption Records Sealed?

Although most adoption records are sealed permanently, it largely depends on the state the adoption occurred in. Unless you take the steps needed to unseal adoption records, they’ll be sealed indefinitely to protect all parties involved.

Nearly all states have laws in place that permit the release of identifying information, so it’s best to speak with an adoption attorney to learn more about the nuances in your state. They can provide helpful information on how you can go about unsealing your adoption records.

5. How Do You Find State Adoption Records?

Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to unseal your records, there are some general steps you can follow to begin your search:

  • Step 1: Contact the local county clerk’s office of the country where you were adopted.
  • Step 2: File a petition to unseal your adoption records.
  • Step 3: Schedule a meeting with the local judge.
  • Step 4: Wait for the judge to deny or approve your request to unseal your records.
  • Step 5: If no intermediary is necessary, your adoption records will be opened up to you.

If you need help finding a reputable adoption attorney, then call 1-800-ADOPTION to speak with one of our specialists who can help you get one step closer toward understanding more about your past.