Montana Original Birth Certificates Open (to some) on 1 October 2015

Montana increases access to original birth certificate on 1 October 2015, but the law does not provide the level of access that some would like.

The original birth certificate (OBC) is created when a child is born. It contains information that many take for granted on birth certificates, like the names of the child and his or her biological parents. When a child is adopted, an amended birth certificate replaces the original. The child’s adoptive name and the names of the child’s adoptive parents are on the amended certificate. Many states seal original birth certificates when amended records are created. Depending on the state’s law, those records might never again be seen by the parties listed on them. This upsets a good number of people who simply want an unaltered record of their birth. Several states who had previously sealed OBCs have opened access to those records in recent years.

Enter Montana into the realm of (slightly more) open OBCs. Montana’s new law breaks up access to their OBCs into three groups of parties. Because of the specific divisions of parties, I will add the caveat that this post will hint at the divisions as I understand them, and add links to various sites to help those who need to use this information in order to obtain records. If this helps just one person, it is worth me going out on a limb and saying there is something you might be able to have, but it depends. It is up to you to investigate further.

The three groups (as I interpret the changes):

1) “Adopted before 1 October 1985, or 30 years or more ago, whichever date is later” ACCESS: Upon written request of adoptee.

2) “Adopted on or after 1 October 1985 and before 1 October 1997”                                  ACCESS: Upon court order.

3) “Adopted on or after 1 October 1997”                                                                              ACCESS: upon written request at age 18, unless birth parent requested in writing the OBC not be released, or by court order.

The old law: Montana 42-6-109, Montana Annotated Code 2014. This law allowed OBC access to those adopted on or before 1 July 1967. This version of the law makes clear that grouping parties when it comes to OBC access is nothing new in Montana. The new law makes the OBC available to more parties than the old law allowed.

The bill that is enabling the expanded OBC access: Montana OBC bill 1 Oct 2015. Pay close attention to Section 3.

Section 3 indicates that an OBC shall be released to an adoptee.

In part:

“Section 3.Section 42-6-109, MCA, is amended to read:

“42-6-109. Release of original birth certificate — certificate of adoption.

(1) [Stricken language] In addition to any copy of an adoptee’s original birth certificate authorized for release by a court order issued pursuant to 50-15-121 or 50-15-122, the department shall furnish a copy of the original
birth certificate [stricken language] of an adoptee.:
(a) upon the written request of a person who was adopted before October 1, 1985, or 30 years or more
ago, whichever date is later;
(b) upon a court order for a person adopted on or after October 1, 1985, and before October 1, 1997;
(c) for a person adopted on or after October 1, 1997, upon:
(i) the written request of an adoptee who has attained 18 years of age unless the birth parent has requested in writing that the original birth certificate not be automatically released; or
(ii) a court order.”
Also note:

“(3) A birth parent may request in writing to the vital statistics bureau that the birth certificate for an adoptee not be released without a court order. The birth parent may change the request at any time by notifying the vital statistics bureau in writing of the change.”

The previous language in the law did not appear to include a provision for the birth parent to change their mind about OBC access. The new law permits a birth parent who has submitted an access denial to change their mind and allow release of the OBC.

The Adoption Mandala has a post with their interpretation of the changes. They also provide background on the law.

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2 Responses to Montana Original Birth Certificates Open (to some) on 1 October 2015

  1. Marie Hale says:

    Do you happen to know how this affects children of the adopted person if they have passed away? My mom was adopted in the 1920’s and has passed. I want to get her original birth certificate but am not sure how to go about it or if I need a court order to get it.

    • debbiemieszala says:

      Hi Marie. I do not know the answer to your question, but the 2015 law was directed at the adoptees themselves and birth parents. Contact Montana for more information. Sometimes when a law is in place it later expands to allow benefits to others, so keep an eye on legislation and any possible efforts to have the law expanded.

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