Family Law

What Are the Rights of an Adopted Person?

Most adoption cases focus primarily on what's best for the child, but not necessarily the child's rights. Continue reading to learn more about adoptee rights.
By Melissa Heinig, Attorney
Updated: Sep 25th, 2018

Adoption comes with many emotions: from the biological parent's sadness to the overwhelming joy of the adoptive parents, and the sense of security and family for the adopted child. Although adoption is often thought to be a joyous occasion, many adoptees (the child who is adopted) have questions about their rights post-adoption. Adoption generally terminates the biological parent’s rights to receive medical or educational information about the child and eliminates the right to visit or communicate with the child. Sometimes though, communication may be necessary for the child to receive essential family health information.

Same as Birth Children

One of the best features of adoption is that the adopted children have the same rights as biological children in every other family. All children have the right to receive emotional and financial support from both parents, and adopted children are no different. Adoptive parents have the legal responsibility to provide care and financial support until the child reaches the age of majority in the state where the family lives—usually 18—or until the child is emancipated.

Additionally, the law treats adopted children and biological children the same for purposes of probate administration if a child’s parent dies. For example, if the parent dies without a will, the court will determine each child’s share of any estate left by the parent by using the state’s probate formula. The court will include adopted children in the calculation and will award the same percentage that biological children would inherit.

Privacy Rights and Adopted Children

State laws vary on how much information about biological parents is available to an adopted child. Some states seal adoption records, making the adoption “closed.” Other states will allow exceptions to the privacy rule, but in many cases, it only allows the child to receive birth records.

Other states require the biological parents to participate in a registry that contains identifying information and medical background. Although the information is available, you still may need to ask the court to bridge the privacy rule, and you’ll need to give a good reason. For example, if the child has a pressing medical illness and lacks information on one or both biological parent’s health history, the court may allow the child to receive the essential information.

What Types of Information Might Be Available?

Depending on where you live, adoptees may be able to access some or all the following types of information on biological parents:

Non-Identifying Information

Adoptees living in a state that provides non-identifying information may receive information about a parent’s appearance, ethnicity, race, and educational history. Adoptees may also learn the circumstances surrounding the adoption, including the name of the agency that provided services for the legal process.

Identifying Information

If you live in a state that provides identifying information, you can expect to know your biological parents’ names and current address. The state may also provide you with information on other biological family members, such as siblings.

Medical Information

Depending on where you live, you may have access to essential health and psychological information.

If you’re unsure of your rights, it would be best to seek assistance from an experienced adoption attorney in your area.

Adoption is Permanent

Most states have registries where biological parents can consent to provide identifying information if the adoptee requests it in the future. That said, after the court finalizes the adoption, biological parents no longer have a right to information or visitation with the adoptee, and with few exceptions, this outcome is permanent.

Some agencies and parents agree to an open adoption, which is where the adoptive parents allow the biological parents to receive photos, updates, and sometimes, annual visits with the child. Open adoption doesn’t change your rights as a biological parent, and once the adoption is final, the court terminates your parental rights. If the child’s adoptive parents have a change of heart in the future about the open adoption, they can deny information to you later.

An Adoption Attorney Can Help

If you're adopted and need medical information about your biological parents, or if you’d like to learn more about your adoption, contact an experienced adoption attorney in your area. The right attorney can help you determine your rights as an adoptee in your state.

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