What actually happens when an adult NJ adoptee requests her birth certificate?
When I wrote about The Adoption Cube last year, my goal was to take the reader along for the ride, illustrating in near-real time what a later-in-life search might entail. I didn’t expect to single-handedly reform adoption laws for the world, or even the Garden State, but I intended to add my voice to the chorus. I also wanted to address the comments that often come my way, such as:
- I thought you didn’t want to know.
- I thought you respected birth mother’s rights to privacy. (Until I read about The Baby Scoop Era). Until I failed to dig up one shred of evidence that the birth mother was given such assurance, and until I read the overwhelming numbers of memoirs and blogs of birth parents that desire contact with their original families).
- I thought you thought it would be disrespectful to your adoptive parents. (Never a problem. They will always be my parents).
- I thought when a person turned 18 they could see their original birth certificate. (This is not true in my state, but I hear this one all the time.)
- I thought if both parties agreed the record could be opened. (Again, simply not true).
It is my belief that the misinformation surrounding current legal aspects of adoption in my state alone prevents reform…the secrets about the secrets!
It turns s out that the correspondence, a half-dozen notes, which went on for weeks (testing my tenacity?) is highly copyrighted stuff, even the half of it generated by me. I do not have the right to print what I said in a conversation I had about my adoption.
Amazed, fascinated and pissed by this, I was also simultaneously aware of the fact that the he kindest, most professional people were doing their jobs, answering phones, answering questions, explaining and upholding the law. I didn’t want to get anyone a pink slip. In my heart, I felt that reform would actually create administrative jobs. So while I started out intending to quote them, I ceased and desisted. I do include some text from some forms that are available to the public for the asking.
My highly edited correspondence looked a bit like this:
…Adoption records are not public records in the State of New Jersey. (See N.J. Court Rule 1:38-3(16).) All judgments of adoption and all records of proceedings relating to adoption are sealed, which means that they are not open to inspection, copying or otherwise made public except upon order of the court. (N.J.S.A. §9:3-51 & 52.)
So what, I asked, does a court order involve?
The next step was to fill out the following form:
ENCLOSED IS A REQUEST TO BREAK THE SEAL ON ADOPTION FILES. YOUR PLEADING IS TO BE COMPLETED AND SIGNED BEFORE A NOTARY AND THEN SUBMITTED TO THE SURROGATE’S OFFICE. THE FILING FEE WILL BE $15.00 WITH A CHECK MADE OUT TO THE MONMOUTH COUNTY SURROGATE.
(Continuing on..Wait. What?)
THIS FORM WILL BE SENT TO:
THE MONMOUTH COUNTY SURROGATE
ATTENTION: BONNIE A. PETRULA
HALL OF RECORDS, ROOM 114
FREEHOLD, NJ 07728
WHEN RETURNING THIS DOCUMENT, PLEASE REMEMBER TO INCLUDE A SELF-ADDRESSED STAMPED ENVELOPE. SHOULD YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT BONNIE A. PETRULA AT (732) 431-7330- ext. 4808.
I knew I was in a fragile mental state when it was the $15 and the Self addressed stamped envelope that pushed me over the edge. What does filing fee mean when there is no intent on anybody’s part to act on my request in any way?
The form looks like this: (Scroll down to skip form and read the recap of this post!)
: SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
IN THE MATTER OF THE : CHANCERY DIVISION-Family Part
ADOPTION OF A CHILD BY : MONMOUTH COUNTY
: DOCKET NO.:
PETITION TO BREAK SEAL
Child’s Name: ____________
Date of Birth: ____________
SS Number: ____________
Adoption Date: ____________
being duly sworn and say:
1. I am the Affiant in the above action.
2. This affidavit is being submitted for good cause shown in support of my request that this Court unseal the records herein for the purpose of:
3. I am aware that if any of the above is willfully false, I am subject to punishment.
, affiant Subscribed and sworn to before me
this ________day of ___________ 2013.
Approved by the Judge:
Teresa Kondrup Coyle, J.S.C.
To recap, for $15, a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (What is this, Little House On the Prairie?) and the possible cost of the notary, I can get an official letter telling me my request for my judgement of adoption has been denied. And you know what? I kinda want that. I want that because someday it will become an interesting heirloom, a remembrance of what the law used to be.