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SOUTH CAROLINA

Adoption Law

Adult adoptees in South Carolina do not have unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates. State law seals the original birth certificate, and it is unclear how it may be available or accessed by an adult adoptee if requested from the court later. While a provision in South Carolina law specifically requires the state registrar to supply an original birth certificate and any amended certificate to the registrant without restrictions, it is unclear how this provision has been used or interpreted in the past.

Identifying information may be released through the state’s public adoption agency if 1) the adoptee is 21 years of age; 2) all parties consent in writing; and 3) the parties “undergo counseling by the adoption agency concerning the effects of the disclosure.” South Carolina law in 2017 expanded the list of people who may obtain or request identifying information from the state’s public agency, to include birth grandparents and birth siblings.

Court records in adoptions are sealed and may only be released for good cause.

Relevant South Carolina Law: Original Birth Certificates

Section 63-9-790. Amended birth certificates
(A) For each adoption handled through a child placing agency as defined in Section 63-9-30, the attorney for the petitioner shall, within fifteen days of the filing of the final decree, transmit to the appropriate agency a certified copy of the adoption decree and a Certificate of Adoption with Part II completed and verified by the adoptive parent and Part III certified by the clerk of court. The agency shall complete Part I of the Certificate of Adoption and transmit the form to the State Registrar of Vital Statistics within thirty days of the filing of the final decree.

(B) For other adoptions, the attorney for the petitioner shall complete Parts I and II of the Certificate of Adoption form provided by the State Registrar of Vital Statistics and file with the clerk of court at the time of filing of the final decree. The clerk of court shall certify Part III of the Certificate of Adoption and transmit the form to the State Registrar within thirty days of the filing of the final decree.

(C) In the case of a person who was born in a foreign country and who was not a United States citizen at birth, the court shall require evidence from sources determined to be reliable by the court as to the date and place of birth of the person and shall set forth in the order of the court the date and place of birth as established by the evidence. The court order and evidence submitted to the court must be attached to the Certificate of Adoption and transmitted to the State Registrar.

(D) The Certificate of Adoption form provided by the State Registrar must not be used in conjunction with any legal procedure affecting a birth certificate other than adoption.

(E) The State Registrar, upon receipt of a certified Certificate of Adoption, shall take action as provided by Section 44-63-140 with respect to the issuance and filing of an amended certificate.

Section 44-63-140. Supplementary or amended birth certificates for adopted children or adults
Upon receipt of a certified Certificate of Adoption pursuant to Section 63-9-790:

(1) For a person born in this State, the state registrar shall prepare a supplementary Certificate of Birth in the name of the adoptee, free of any reference to or indication of the fact that the child was adopted and showing the adoptive parents as the real parents, except that an adoption of an adult must display the words “By Adoption” on the face of the amended certificate.

The state registrar shall furnish a copy of the amended certificate to the county registrar who shall file the amended certificate in lieu of the copy of the original birth certificate. The state registrar shall require the county registrar to return the copy of the original certificate recorded at the county office to the state office to be placed in the special sealed file. Periodically, the state registrar shall transmit copies of amendatory certificates to the county registrar in the county of birth.

New Law: Effective July 1, 2019

South Carolina enacted the following amendments to its law in 2018. These provisions become effective July 1, 2019, but apply only to adoptions finalized after that date.

(1)

(a) For a person born in this State, the state registrar shall prepare a supplementary Certificate of Birth in the name of the adoptee, free of any reference to or indication of the fact that the child was adopted and showing the adoptive parents as the real parents, except that an adoption of an adult must display the words ‘By Adoption’ on the face of the amended certificate.

The state registrar shall furnish a copy of the amended certificate to the county registrar who shall file the amended certificate in lieu of the copy of the original birth certificate. The state registrar shall require the county registrar to return the copy of the original certificate recorded at the county office to the state office to be placed in the special sealed file. Periodically, the state registrar shall transmit copies of amendatory certificates to the county registrar in the county of birth.

(b)    The original birth certificate and the evidence of adoption are not subject to inspection, except upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction. However, a person eighteen years of age or older who was born in the State of South Carolina and who has had his original certificate of birth sealed due to an adoption may, upon written request to the state registrar, receive a copy of his original birth certificate and any evidence of the adoption held with the original record if the biological parent has completed a form consenting to the release of the original birth certificate. The form also must allow for the biological parent to indicate contact preference and to consent to release of medical history pursuant to item (1)(c). The copy of the original birth certificate must be in a form that clearly indicates it is not a certified copy and that it may not be used for legal purposes. All procedures, fees, and waiting periods applicable to nonadopted citizens born in the State of South Carolina seeking copies of certificates of birth apply.

(c)    The department shall develop a contact preference form and a medical history form to provide to a biological parent upon request to be completed at his option. Upon completion, a contact preference form and a medical history form must be filed with the state registrar and accompany an original sealed birth certificate issued to an adoptee pursuant to subitem (b).

 

(d) The contact preference form must allow the biological parent to indicate whether he has completed or updated a medical history form and must allow the biological parent to choose one of the following contact options and provide contact information as appropriate:

(1) I would like to be contacted.
(2) I would prefer to be contacted only through an intermediary.
(3) I prefer not to be contacted at this time. If I decide later that I would like to be contacted, I will submit an updated contact preference form to the state registrar.

Only department staff authorized to process applications made pursuant to subitem (b) may process contact preference and medical history forms.

(e) The medical history form and contact preference form are confidential communications from the biological parent to the person named on the sealed birth certificate and must be placed in a sealed file upon receipt from the biological parent in the file containing the sealed original birth certificate. The sealed file containing the contact preference form and medical history form must be released to an adoptee requesting the adoptee’s own original birth certificate pursuant to subitem (b). The contact preference form and medical history form are private communications from the biological parent to the adoptee named on the sealed birth certificate, and the state registrar shall retain a copy of the forms upon release to the adoptee.

 

(2) When adoption is decreed by a family court in this State of a person born in a foreign country who was not a United States citizen at birth and evidence of the date and place of birth submitted to the court and the court order setting forth the date and place of birth are attached to the Certificate of Adoption, the state registrar, when directed by the court order, shall prepare a “Certificate of Foreign Birth”. The certificate, and any issued copy of the certificate, must be labeled “Certificate of Foreign Birth” and must show the actual country of birth. A statement also must be included on the certificate, and any issued copy of the certificate, that it is not evidence of United States citizenship for the person for whom it is issued.

(3) If the person was born in a foreign country and was a United States citizen at the time of birth, the state registrar may not prepare a “Certificate of Foreign Birth” but shall notify the adoptive parents of the procedure for obtaining a revised birth certificate for their child through the United States Department of State.

(4) For a person born in another state in the United States, the state registrar shall transmit the certified Certificate of Adoption to the state registrar in the state of birth.

(5) When adoption is decreed in a foreign country of a person born in that country and the procedures set forth in Section 63-9-910 are followed, upon receipt of the court order with its findings and the certificate of adoption, the state registrar shall prepare a “Certificate of Foreign Birth”. The certificate, and any issued copy of the certificate, must be labeled “Certificate of Foreign Birth” and must state the actual country of birth. A statement also must be included on the certificate, and any issued copy of the certificate, that it is not evidence of United States’ citizenship for the person for whom it is issued.

Except as otherwise provided, certified copies of the original birth certificate or any new or amendatory certificate, exclusive of that portion containing confidential information, must be issued only by the state registrar and only to the registrant, if of legal age, his parent or guardian, or other legal representative, and upon request to the Department of Social Services or its designee for the purpose of establishing paternity or establishing, modifying, or enforcing a child support obligation. The registrar shall include a copy of the pamphlet “South Carolina Family Respect”, as provided in Section 44-63-80. Certified copies of birth certificates; to whom issued; “South Carolina Family Respect” pamphlet to be included with certified copies20-1-720, when it mails or sends the certified copy of the birth certificate. However, the certified copy of the birth certificate may not disclose the name of the father in any illegitimate birth unless the name of the father is entered on the certificate pursuant to Section 44-63-163 or Section 44-63-165. The short form certificate or birth card may be furnished only to the registrant, his parent or guardian, or other legal representative by the state or county registrar. When one hundred years have elapsed after the date of birth, these records must be made available in photographic or other suitable format for public viewing.

Section 63-9-780. Confidentiality of hearings and records
(A) Unless the court otherwise orders, all hearings held in proceedings under this article and Article 7 are confidential and must be held in closed court without admittance of any person other than those persons involved in the proceedings and their counsel.

 

(B) All papers and records pertaining to the adoption and filed with the clerk of court are confidential from the time of filing and upon entry of the final adoption decree must be sealed and kept as a permanent record of the court and withheld from inspection. No person may have access to the records except for good cause shown by order of the judge of the court in which the decree of adoption was entered.

 

(C) All files and records pertaining to the adoption proceedings in the State Department of Social Services, or in any authorized agency, or maintained by any person certified by the department under the provisions of Section 63-9-360, are confidential and must be withheld from inspection except upon court order for good cause shown.

 

(D) The provisions of this section must not be construed to prevent any adoption agency from furnishing to adoptive parents, biological parents, biological grandparents, biological siblings, or adoptees nonidentifying information when in the sole discretion of the chief executive officer of the agency the information would serve the best interests of the persons concerned either during the period of placement or at a subsequent time nor must the provisions of this article and Article 7 be construed to prevent giving nonidentifying information to any other person, party, or agency who in the discretion of the chief executive officer of the agency has established a sufficient reason justifying the release of that nonidentifying information. As used in this subsection ‘nonidentifying information’ includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(1) the health and medical histories of the biological parents, biological grandparents, or biological siblings;
(2) the health and medical history of the adoptee;
(3) the adoptee’s general family background without name references or geographical designations; and
(4) the length of time the adoptee has been in the care and custody of the adoptive parent.

(E)

(1) The public adoption agency responsible for the placement shall furnish to an adoptee the identity of the adoptee’s biological parents, biological grandparents, and biological siblings and to the biological parents, biological grandparents, and biological siblings the identity of the adoptee under the following conditions:

(a) for an adoptee applying for identifying information about a biological parent or biological grandparent:

(i) the adoptee must be twenty-one years of age or older, and must apply in writing to the adoption agency for the information; and

(ii) the adoption agency must have a current file containing affidavits from the adoptee and the biological parent or biological grandparent, as applicable, agreeing to the disclosure of their identity to each other. The affidavit also must include a statement releasing the agency from any liability due to the disclosure. It is the responsibility of the person furnishing the affidavit to advise the agency of a change in his status, name, and address;

(b) for an adoptee applying for identifying information about a biological sibling:

(i) the adoptee and the biological sibling must be twenty-one years of age or older, and the adoptee must apply in writing to the adoption agency for the information; and

(ii) the adoption agency must have a current file containing affidavits from the adoptee and the biological sibling agreeing to the disclosure of their identity to each other. The affidavit also must include a statement releasing the agency from any liability due to the disclosure. It is the responsibility of the person furnishing the affidavit to advise the agency of a change in his status, name, and address;

(c) for a biological parent or biological grandparent applying for identifying information about an adoptee:

(i) the adoptee must be twenty-one years of age or older, and the biological parent or biological grandparent must apply in writing to the adoption agency for the information; and

(ii) the adoption agency must have a current file containing affidavits from the adoptee and the biological parent or biological grandparent, as applicable, agreeing to the disclosure of their identity to each other. The affidavit also must include a statement releasing the agency from any liability due to the disclosure. It is the responsibility of the person furnishing the affidavit to advise the agency of a change in his status, name, and address; and

(d) for a biological sibling applying for identifying information about an adoptee:

(i) the biological sibling and adoptee must be twenty-one years of age or older, and the biological sibling must apply in writing to the adoption agency for the information; and

(ii) the adoption agency must have a current file containing affidavits from the adoptee and the biological sibling, agreeing to the disclosure of their identity to each other. The affidavit also must include a statement releasing the agency from any liability due to the disclosure. It is the responsibility of the person furnishing the affidavit to advise the agency of a change in his status, name, and address.

(2) The adoption agency shall establish and maintain a confidential register containing the names and addresses of the adoptees and the biological parents, biological grandparents, and biological siblings who have filed affidavits. It is the responsibility of a person whose name and address are in the register to provide the agency with his current name and address. The adoption agency shall release the identifying information requested pursuant to this subsection of only those adoptees, biological parents, biological grandparents, and biological siblings who have provided an affidavit pursuant to item (1).

(3) The adoptee and the biological parent, biological grandparent, or biological sibling, as applicable, shall undergo counseling by the adoption agency concerning the effects of the disclosure. The adoption agency may charge a fee for the services, but services must not be denied because of inability to pay.

(4) No disclosure may be made within thirty days after compliance with these conditions. The director of the adoption agency may waive the thirty-day period in extreme circumstances.

(5) The adoption agency may delay disclosure for twenty days from the expiration of the thirty-day period to allow time to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to enjoin the disclosure for good cause shown.

(F)

(1) It is unlawful for a person having custody of or access to the papers, records, or files described in subsection (B) or (C) to disseminate or permit dissemination of information contained in them except as otherwise authorized in this section.

(2) A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.

 

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