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WEST VIRGINIA

Adoption Law

West Virginia does not provide adult adoptees with unrestricted access to their original birth certificates. A court order, requiring good cause, is required before the release of an OBC.

West Virginia maintains a mutual consent voluntary adoption registry through which adult adoptees and birth parents may seek identifying information. One hour of mandatory counseling is required upon registration. Consent is required for release of identifying information—consent is denied if a birth parent has died.

If the voluntary registry is unsuccessful in obtaining identifying information, an adoptee who is at least 18 years of age may bring a court action for the release of information. The court’s release of identifying information depends on birth parent consent. If a birth parent does not provide consent or presumably cannot be found, the court may release identifying information only if there is “evidence of compelling medical or other good cause . . . .”

Relevant West Virginia Law: Original Birth Certificates

§ 16-5-18. Certificates of birth following adoption, legitimation, paternity acknowledgment and court determination of paternity
(a) The State Registrar shall establish a new certificate of birth for a person born in West Virginia when he or she receives the following:

(1) A certificate of adoption as provided in section sixteen of this article or a certificate of adoption prepared and filed in accordance with the laws of another state, or a certified copy of the order of adoption, together with the information necessary to identify the original certificate of birth and to establish a new certificate of birth; or

(2) A request that a new certificate be established as prescribed by legislative rule, based upon evidence that:

(A) The person for whom the certificate is sought has been legitimated;
(B) A court of competent jurisdiction has determined the paternity of the person; or
(C) Both parents have acknowledged the paternity of the person.

(b) A new certificate of birth shall show the actual city, county and date of birth, if known, and shall be substituted for the original certificate of birth on file. The original certificate of birth and the evidence of adoption, legitimation, court determination of paternity, or affidavit of paternity may not be inspected except for the administration of the system of vital statistics or the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement, or upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or, in the case of an affidavit of paternity, the signatories to the affidavit or the adult subject of the affidavit, or as provided by legislative rule or as otherwise provided by state law.

(c) Upon receipt of a report of an amended order of adoption, the State Registrar shall amend the certificate of birth as provided by legislative rule.

(d) Upon receipt of a report or order of annulment of adoption, the State Registrar shall restore the original certificate of birth to its place in the files and the new certificate and evidence may not be inspected except for the administration of the system of vital statistics or Bureau for Child Support Enforcement, or upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as provided by legislative rule or as otherwise provided by state law.

(e) Upon receipt of a written request and a sworn affidavit of paternity signed by both parents of a child born out of wedlock, the State Registrar shall place the name of the father on the certificate of birth and, if the child is under the age of eighteen and at the request of the parents, change the surname of the child in the manner prescribed by legislative rule.

(f) If no certificate of birth is on file for the person for whom a new certificate of birth is to be established under this section, a delayed certificate of birth must be filed with the State Registrar as provided in section fourteen or fifteen of this article before a new certificate of birth is established, except that when the date and place of birth and parentage have been established by a court of competent jurisdiction, a delayed certificate is not required.

(g) When a new certificate of birth is established by the State Registrar, all copies of the original certificate of birth in the custody of any other custodian of vital records in this state shall be sealed from inspection or forwarded to the State Registrar, as he or she shall direct.

(h) Upon receipt of the documentation set forth in subdivision (1) of this subsection, the State Registrar shall prepare and register a certificate in this state for a person born in a foreign country who is not a citizen of the United States and who was adopted through a court of competent jurisdiction in this state.

(1) The State Registrar shall establish the certificate upon receipt of:

(A) A certificate of adoption from the court ordering the adoption;
(B) Proof of the date and place of the child’s birth; and
(C) A request that the certificate be prepared, from the court, the adopting parents, or the adopted person if he or she has attained the age of eighteen years.

(2) The certificate shall be labeled “Certificate of Foreign Birth” and shall show the actual country of birth. The certificate shall include a statement that it is not evidence of United States citizenship for the person for whom it is issued.

(3) After registration of the certificate of birth in the new name of the adopted person, the State Registrar shall seal and file the certificate of adoption, which may not be inspected except for the administration of the system of vital statistics, or upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as provided by legislative rule or as otherwise provided by state law.

Relevant West Virginia Law: Adoption Court Records

48 § 22-702. Recordation of order; fees; disposition of records; names of adopting parents and persons previously entitled to parental rights not to be disclosed; disclosure of identifying and nonidentifying information; certificate for state registrar of vital statistics; birth certificate
(a) The order of adoption shall be recorded in a book kept for that purpose, and the clerk shall receive the same fees as in other cases. All records of proceedings in adoption cases and all papers and records relating to such proceedings shall be kept in the office of the clerk of the circuit court in a sealed file, which file shall be kept in a locked or sealed cabinet, vault or other container and shall not be open to inspection or copy by anyone, except as otherwise provided in this article, or upon court order for good cause shown. No person in charge of adoption records shall disclose the names of the adopting parent or parents, the names of persons previously entitled to parental rights, or the name of the adopted child, except as otherwise provided in this article, or upon court order for good cause shown. The clerk of the court keeping and maintaining the records in adoption cases shall keep and maintain an index of such cases separate and distinct from all other indices kept or maintained by him or her, and the index of adoption cases shall be kept in a locked or sealed cabinet, vault or other container and shall not be open to inspection or copy by anyone, except as otherwise provided in this article, or upon court order for good cause shown. Nonidentifying information, the collection of which is provided for in article 23-101, et seq., of this chapter, shall be provided to the adoptive parents as guardians of the adopted child, or to the adult adoptee, by their submitting a duly acknowledged request to the clerk of the court. The clerk may charge the requesting party for copies of any documents, as provided in section eleven, article one, chapter fifty-nine of this code. Either birth parent may from time to time submit additional social, medical or genetic history for the adoptee, which information shall be placed in the court file by the clerk, who shall bring the existence of this medical information to the attention of the court. The court shall immediately transmit all such nonidentifying medical, social or genetic information to the adoptive parents or the adult adoptee.

(b) If an adoptee, or parent of a minor adoptee, is unsuccessful in obtaining identifying information by use of the mutual consent voluntary adoption registry provided for in 23-101, et seq., identifying information may be sought through the following process:

(1) Upon verified petition of an adoptee at least eighteen years of age, or, if less than eighteen, his or her adoptive parent or legal guardian, the court may also attempt, either itself, or through its designated agent, to contact the birth parents, if known, to obtain their consent to release identifying information to the adoptee. The petition shall state the reasons why the adoptee desires to contact his or her birth parents, which reasons shall be disclosed to the birth parents if contacted. The court and its agent shall take any and all care possible to assure that none but the birth parents themselves are informed of the adoptee’s existence in relationship to them. The court may appoint the bureau of children and families, or a private agency which provides adoption services in accordance with standards established by law, to contact birth parents as its designated agent, the said agent shall report to the court the results of said contact.

(2) Upon the filing of a verified petition as provided in subdivision (1) of this subsection, should the court be unable to obtain consent from either of the birth parents to release identifying information, the court may release such identifying information to the adoptee, or if a minor, the adoptee’s parents or guardian, after notice to the birth parents and a hearing thereon, at which hearing the court must specifically find that there exists evidence of compelling medical or other good cause for release of such identifying information.

(c) Identifying information may only be obtained with the duly acknowledged consent of the mother or the legal or determined father who consented to the adoption or whose rights were otherwise relinquished or terminated, together with the duly acknowledged consent of the adopted child upon reaching majority, or upon court order for good cause shown. Any person previously entitled to parental rights may from time to time submit additional social or medical information which, notwithstanding other provisions of this article, shall be inserted into the record by the clerk of the court.

(d) Immediately upon the entry of such order of adoption, the court shall direct the clerk thereof forthwith to make and deliver to the state registrar of vital statistics a certificate under the seal of said court, showing:

(1) The date and place of birth of the child, if known;

(2) The name of the mother of the child, if known, and the name of the legal or determined father of the child, if known;

(3) The name by which said child has previously been known;

(4) The names and addresses of the adopting parents;

(5) The name by which the child is to be thereafter known; and

(6) Such other information from the record of the adoption proceedings as may be required by the law governing vital statistics and as may enable the state registrar of vital statistics to carry out the duties imposed upon him or her by this section.

(e) Upon receipt of the certificate, the registrar of vital statistics shall forthwith issue and deliver by mail to the adopting parents at their last-known address and to the clerk of the county commission of the county wherein such order of adoption was entered a birth certificate in the form prescribed by law, except that the name of the child shown in said certificate shall be the name given him or her by the order of adoption. The clerk shall record such birth certificate in the manner set forth in section twelve, article five, chapter sixteen of this code.

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