Q&A About CO ACCESS 2014
Q: What is CO ACCESS 2014?
A: Two separate bills with bipartisan sponsorship that were passed unanimously during the 2014 legislative session. The first bill, SB 14-051, sponsored by Sen. Lois Tochtrop (D-Thornton) is focused on providing access to original birth certificates and adoption records to adult adoptees. The second bill, HB 14-1042, sponsored by Rep. Lori Saine (R-Dacono), made Colorado the second state in the nation after Oregon (to our knowledge) to create a statutory requirement that birth/first parents who voluntarily relinquish(ed) their parental rights have access to the documents they signed. Both bills were amended during the legislative process, but the core purpose and goals of each bill were preserved!
Q: Where can I view the final versions of both measures signed by the Governor?
A: Click on the following links:
Q: What if I am already in contact with one or both of my birth parent(s)?
A: A birth parent named on the original birth certificate can request it directly by using this form. You can also mutually consent to the release of your original birth certificate using this CDPHE form. This can be especially helpful if your adoption was finalized prior to 7/1/51, or between 7/1/67 and 8/31/99, because it means you don't have to wait until 1/1/16 to request your OBC.
(NOTE: Earlier statute and case law already granted access to adult adoptees (18+) whose adoptions were finalized between 7/1/51 and 6/30/67 and after 9/1/99. On 8/25, we notified the CDPHE Vital Records unit that the link for the Application to Open Sealed Adoption File form used for these dates does not take the user to the correct form - but instead to the mutual consent form. This should be corrected in the near future.)
Q: Who is considered an "eligible party" to obtain copies of records under SB 51?
A: Section 19-5-305(2)(b)(I) and (II) define an eligible party as an adult adoptee, adoptive parent of a minor adoptee, custodial grandparent of a minor adoptee, or certain other relatives with the notarized written consent of the adult adoptee or if the adult adoptee is deceased. A birth parent whose parental rights were not terminated as a result of a dependency and neglect action is eligible to receive a copy of the original birth certificate (see below for information about additional records available to birth parents under HB 1042).
Q: Why are there still distinctions regarding access to original birth certificates until 1/1/16, based on when my adoption was finalized?
A: The purpose of the new law is to create a uniform standard for the release of copies adoption records to eligible parties upon direct request and proof of identification, and courts are instructed to "liberally construe this section in favor of releasing the records" [see Section 19-5-305(2)]. The original bill as introduced provided for access to copies of OBCs and adoption records effective 7/1/14. However, as often happens during the legislative process, the bill was amended (not our idea) to allow a transition period to phase out the more restrictive version of the Contact Preference Form, which was added to the law (as part of a bill we initially supported, but then sought to kill after unfriendly amendments) in 2005 and applies to OBCs in the possession of Vital Records. This transition period means that most people whose adoptions were finalized between 7/1/67 and 8/31/99 (the time period which featured the most restrictive language regarding access to adoption records), and prior to 7/1/51 will have to wait until 1/1/16 to have access to their original birth certificates. However, there are some exceptions that would allow direct access now:
- the adoption was finalized between 7/1/51 and 6/30/67 (the new law preserves access to records affirmed by a 2009 Court of Appeals ruling, in re J.N.H.), or after 9/1/99 (for adoptees age 18+ created by the passage of HB 1188 in 1999). Use the Application to Open Sealed Adoption File.
- notarized written mutual consent of the reunited parties, as described above
- evidence that the sought birth parent is deceased, or could reasonably be presumed to be deceased (this provision can be especially helpful to pre-1951 adoptees - see below) Again, use the Application to Open Sealed Adoption File and attach death certificate, or ask Vital Records to perform a search for a death certificate.
- demonstration of "good cause" to a court of jurisdiction (you can represent yourself, but we recommend working with an attorney to complete sections 4 and 5 of Form JDF 532 and attach Form JDF 533).
- the adoptee qualifies under provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act
Q: When do these measures go into effect and who do I contact to obtain records?
A: There are three key dates involved:
July 1, 2014:
- Certain adoption records (see below for statutory definition) held by a state agency or in the court's possession become directly available to eligible parties (see instructions on Form JDF 494) upon proof of identification and payment of a reasonable fee through the court handling the adoption.
- To request your records from the court, complete the updated version of Form JDF 532 (Note: ONLY complete sections 1-3. Sections 4-5 are for those do NOT qualify as eligible parties under SB 51 and who wish to file a motion for good cause with the court). Be sure to read the important instructions on Form JDF 494, available via the same link. The court clerk will verify that you are an eligible party and contact you to let you know that they have located your file and when you can obtain copies of documents. Eligible parties no longer need to demonstrate "good cause" to a judge to obtain adoption records in the court's possession, though adoption records remain sealed from the general public without a court order.
- Court retrieval and copying fees are based on Chief Justice Directive 06-01
- If the court does not have your records, in most cases the court clerk should be able to direct you to the state agency that does hold them, most likely the State Archives, 1313 Sherman Street, Room 120, the Colorado Department of Human Services, or Department of Youth Corrections (see below).
- NOTE: Adult adoptees and other eligible parties should not contact a Licensed Child Placement Agency (LCPA) for copies of records related to SB 51. Because, for purposes of SB 51 only, LCPAs are excluded from the definition of "custodian of records" and records are available through government entities, LCPAs are not required to release adoption records.
- Deceased Parties. The State Registrar can conduct a search for the death certificate [C.R.S. Section 19-5-305(2)(III)(A) and (B)] of a sought relative and provide the OBC to an eligible party if the sought party is deceased. A death certificate of a sought party, though sad, also grants access to the OBC (directly from the State Registrar) and adoption records by filing Forms JDF 532 and 533 with the court that handled the adoption. This provision may be especially useful for pre-1951 adoptees and adult descendants of adoptees whose birth parents are likely deceased.
- OBCs and records previously available under pre-7/1/14 statute and case law will still be available.
At minimum, eligible parties should receive the following documents from the court or a state agency (though those whose adoptions were finalized between 7/1/67 and 8/31/99 will likely have to wait until 1/1/16 to receive their original birth certificate from the State Registrar. However, if your adoption was finalized prior to 7/1/51, we suggest you request a death certificate search in order to possibly avoid having to wait until 1/1/16 to receive your OBC.). According to C.R.S. 19-1-103, (6.5) (a) "Adoption record," as used in part 3 of article 5 of this title, means the following documents and information:
- The adoptee's original birth certificate and amended birth certificate
- The final decree of adoption;
- Non-identifying information, as defined in section 19-1-103 (80);
- The final order of relinquishment; and
- The order of termination of parental rights.
(b) "Adoption record" shall not include pre-relinquishment counseling records, which records shall remain confidential.
August 7, 2014:
- Birth/first parents (those whose parental rights were not terminated as a result of a Dependency and Neglect action) will have access to copies of documents they signed, including the OBC upon proof of identification, per HB 1042.
- Courts and LCPAs will release copies of these records to birth/firsts parents under this new law.
- We anticipate new forms from the Courts and Vital Records (though Vital Records may decide to continue to use this form) allowing a birth parent to request copies of records they signed on or near that date. Birth/first parents can also request relinquishment records directly from the adoption agency that handled the relinquishment. More details will be posted here as they become available.
January 1, 2016:
- The State Registrar will begin releasing Original Birth Certificates for time periods currently closed (7/1/67 - 8/31/99, and pre-7/1/51) following the "phase out" period for the current, more restrictive version of the Contact Preference Form.
Q: On an after July 1, 2014 how can I obtain my adoption records per SB 51?
A: Courts and state agencies have the right to establish their own procedures for complying with the new law. The language of the new law [Section 19-5-305(2)(b)(I) and (IV)] specifically states that direct access to adoption records is available to eligible parties (an adult adoptee, adoptive parent of a minor adoptee, custodial grandparent of a minor adoptee, or certain other relatives with the notarized written consent of the adult adoptee or if the adult adoptee is deceased) upon request and proof of identification. The court or state agency should not require that you file a Motion or present an Order for good cause to obtain your records, unless you are not an eligible party.
You will be required to provide proof of identification and the court or agency may charge a reasonable fee for locating the records and making copies.
The State Court Administrator's Office has updated Form JDF 532, as discussed above(Note: ONLY complete sections 1-3. Sections 4-5 are for those do NOT qualify as eligible parties under SB 51 and who wish to file a motion for good cause with the court). Depending on whether or not you are an "eligible party", the form is used for direct access to records. If you are not an eligible party, you must demonstrate "good cause" for access to adoption records on Form JDF 532 (item number 4) and must also file Form JDF 533 (the court order). In this situation, the form is treated as a Motion for Good Cause that will be reviewed by a judge or magistrate.
Some state agencies (see above for who to contact) may store the records on site, or, depending on how old the records are, the records may be microfiched and need to be retrieved from another location. Contact the appropriate person noted above for details. These changes to the law can be very emotional for some people, so please remember to be courteous and patient as new processes are implemented and refined.
Questions or concerns? Please contact us at 303/232-6302.