Oregon Adoption Law Changes Effective 01/01/14

The Oregon legislature changed many of the laws relating to secrecy and privacy in adoption records. These changes go into effect January 1, 2014. Under these changes, the “sealed records” statute, ORS 7.211, is repealed, and access to adoption records by persons who were parties to an adoption is allowed.

Everyone will treasure this reunion story.

Everyone will treasure this reunion story.

The compelling factors: a 17 year old girl is raped, gives birth to a healthy infant, and treasures the memory of that infant for 77 years. She prays to God she might be allowed to see her birth daughter. Finally, when she is 94 years old, the daughter’s son is searching for the medical history and his eyes pop open that he has found his mother’s birth mother at age 94. They have maintained a healthy relationship through the birth mother’s 100th birthday. Another daughter lives in Portland. Astonishing and positive story.

Adoption Records

Court records of adoptions finalized in Oregon are sealed pursuant to ORS 7.211. A court order is required to unseal the records. However, since 1979 there have been laws in Oregon requiring the gathering of medical and biographical information about a child who is adopted, and this information can be released to an adopted person age 21.

Adoption did not exist at common law. That means that adoptions took place, but they were not done by legal proceedings. So, adoption is “wholly a creature of statute,” and the laws and regulations informing adoption policy can be changed by the legislature, and are regularly interpreted by the courts, without reference to any “common law” or “natural law.”

As an example what it means when there is no common law for the courts to hinge their opinion on, over time the legislature’s different requirements for Consent by the legal parents have changed, in various situations, so some of  the adoption statutes requiring consent are internally inconsistent. Blame the piecemeal nature of making legislation over the course of 80 years. Blame the different beliefs regarding the “best interest of the child” and the guarantee of  privacy, as the social stigma of illegitimacy, adoption, step-parents, same-sex couples, and single parenthood have evolved. Add in the evolving notions of bonds which a child may have with non-parents, such as grandparents, in an era of divorce being common and occasionally hostile. And factor in the huge increase in the numbers of parents who are impaired, unfortunately, by drug addiction or mental illness or other circumstances.

In general, an experienced Oregon adoption lawyer is the best resource you have to help you understand the laws and procedures which must be followed in order to obtain a court order, a Judgment of Adoption, or to try to modify or change an existing Judgment.

Feel free to call me anytime at 503-234-8801 if you have questions about adoption in Oregon!



Adoption and Name Change

When a court grants a Judgment of Adoption, very often the Petitioners have also requested a change of name for the child. Under Oregon law, if a child is 14 or older, he or she must also consent to the name change. The change can be to a completely new name, and to any part of the name (first, middle, last name), or parents can add extra names (many people have two middle names, or hyphenated or compound first or last names). The change can also be to a name which is different from the parents’ last names (perhaps to match a sibling); it can be a simple spelling change.

Adult Adoption

Adult Adoption is the legal adoption of a person 18 years or older. Sometimes this is the best way to formalize a step-parent relationship of long-standing when the legal parent was unwilling to consent to adoption and no substitute for consent fit the facts. It is simple, and requires no notice to the other legal parent; and yes, a name change is included. The child will have a new birth certificate, with the new legal parents. This is the typical “adult adoption,” but we have seen a lot of other scenarios where people accomplish adoption of someone over the age of 18.

Post Adoption Communication Agreements

Post Adoption Communication Agreements define the agreed-upon frequency and types of communications desired by the parties to an adoption agreement. In later blog posts we will help you identify some typical issues and how the court process will provide enforcement of the terms.