Breaking the Seal of Adoption is a process in which a birth parent or adoptee seeks release of either identifying or non-identifying information from their adoption records which were sealed by the Court when the adoption was finalized.
Maryland has an administrative process through the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene (DHMH) which allows either adoptees over the age of 21 or birth parents to register with the Maryland Mutual Voluntary Registry to locate each other. There are several services offered through DHMH for obtaining different levels of information and should this process fail, a Petition to Break the Seal of Adoption may be filed in the Circuit Court. Jennifer has assisted clients in both the administrative process and the Court process to obtain necessary medical information about birth families or to help the parties locate each other. As part of this process, Maryland uses trained intermediary’s who review the adoption files, interview the parties and protect the adoptee or birth parent who does not wish to be identified. Jennifer can assist you in understanding the process and working through it to obtain available information.
Like Maryland, the District of Columbia uses intermediaries, however the process is quite different. In the District of Columbia a birth parent or adoptee must first file a Petition to Break the Seal of Adoption in the Superior Court which must satisfy the Court that the information sought is for a legitimate purpose. If the Court believes that breaking the seal of adoption would benefit the person seeking to have the adoption seal broken, it will issue an Order to the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency to investigate the case. The Agency will assign a social worker (intermediary) who will attempt to locate the original file, obtain information and interview the person who filed the Petition. If information can be obtained from the file that satisfies the request, the information is provided and a report is filed with the Court and the file is re-sealed. If locating the birth parent or adoptee is what is sought, the social worker will attempt to locate the person and facilitate an exchange of information and possible meeting of the parties. Once the social worker has completed his or her work or believes there is no further information or contact information available a report is filed with the Court, sometimes a hearing is held related to the matter, and the matter is re-sealed.
Like all matters involving adoption, each case is fact specific and some cases require more attorney involvement than others. Consulting with an attorney prior to attempting to break the seal of adoption in either jurisdiction or starting the administrative process in Maryland can be beneficial in helping you understand the options available, possible outcomes and answer many questions or concerns you may have about breaking the seal of adoption.