Surrogate's Court

Adoption Proceedings

In an adoption proceeding, the petitioner seeks to have the court give permanent legal rights and responsibilities to people, other than the child's birth parents. Adoptions are handled by the Surrogate's Court or Family Court in each County. The Court's jurisdiction depends on the circumstances.
There are two types of adoptions: "Private Placement" and "Agency" adoptions, which may have slightly different procedures.

Private placement adoptions are conducted when persons seek to adopt without the aid of a child care or adoption agency. Persons who wish to adopt a child under these circumstances must be pre-certified or approved to have temporary custody of the child while the court decides if they can adopt the child.

Agency adoptions refer to cases where a child is already in the custody of an agency and the rights of the birth parents have already been terminated. These adoptions are handled through the foster care agency which investigates the home of the proposed adoptive parents and prepares and files the necessary papers and reports with the court.

When an adoption is approved, the adoptive parents are considered the child's legal parents. If the child is over the age of 14, the child must consent to the adoption.

In New York State, the adoption records are sealed when the adoption is approved by the court. The adoptive parents are given an adoption certificate, and a new birth certificate with the child's adoptive name is issued by the health department. Adopted children may petition the court to have the records unsealed for medical reasons or for good cause.

Private Placement Adoptions:

1. Adoption can take place in the County where the adoptive parents were certified;

2. Adoption can take place where the adoptive parents reside;

3. If the adoptive parents live out of state, then the adoption can take place in the County where the child resides.

Agency Adoptions:

1. County where the adoptive parents reside;

2. The County where the agency has its principal place of business;

3. Parental Rights:

-If a petition to terminate parental rights pending in a particular County, jurisdiction is that County.

-If parental rights have been terminated, then it can take place in the County where the adoptive parents reside.

4. Judicial Surrender - if a Judicial Surrender is pending in a particular County, then the adoption must take place in that County.

5. If the adoptive parents don’t reside in New York State, then the adoption can take place in whatever County the agency has its principal place of business.

Opening Sealed Files:

1. Adoption files can be opened to obtain medical information. They cannot be opened to obtain identifying information, such as the name(s) of the birth parent(s).

2. To receive medical information, you may contact the Adoption Information Registry. For more information, go to web site:

To contact the Adoption Information Registry in writing, the address is:

Adoption Information Registry
New York State Department of Health
P.O. Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220-2602

3. Adopted people may petition the Court to have access to the sealed adoption records for the following reasons: to obtain medical information or for good cause other than to obtain medical information (i.e. to establish that the adopted person is a Native American Child, subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978).

To petition the Court to gain access to the sealed adoption file on medical grounds, you must attach to the petition a medical certification from a physician licensed to practice medicine in the State of New York addressing a serious physical or mental illness. Such certification needs to identify the information required to address said illness.

If such request to open a sealed file is granted, the Court will appoint a non-interested party (an attorney) to review the file.

4. If an adopted person never received their amended birth certificate, they can then petition the Court to have the record unsealed in order that the necessary information can be obtained and then submitted to Vital Records. Court personnel will review the file, not the petitioner.


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