Inheriting a deceased person’s right to adoption information
Under the Adoption Act 2000 an adopted person and their birth parent or parents have a direct entitlement to receive certain prescribed social and medical information. This would depend on when the adoption took place and age of the adopted person.
In the event of a death of an adopted person or birth parent, a relative or a significant other person can apply to ‘inherit’ the deceased person’s rights to adoption information. This is not an automatic entitlement. A person’s application to inherit the rights of a deceased birth parent or adopted person will be assessed.
If your application is approved you may then apply for an Adoption Information Certificate (AIC), that would have otherwise been issued to the adopted person or birth parent. You are also entitled to some of the information which would have been provided to the deceased person.
Application and assessment
When considering an application the Act requires that the Secretary of the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) Adoption Information Unit (AIU)
'take into account any likely detriment to the welfare and best interest of any adopted person, birth parent, relative or spouse of the deceased adopted person, or any other person, if the birth certificate and adoption information is supplied'. s137(3).
There are two main types of inherited rights applications:
- Family history (ancestry) - These are applications where both the adopted person and birth parent(s) are deceased. They are more likely to be approved. In these situations the release of adoption information is less likely to cause distress to any surviving person.
- Family identity (kinship) - These are applications where one of the parties to the adoption (either a birth parent or the adopted person) is still likely to be alive or a significant person who was very close to one of the parties is possibly still alive. Depending on the specific circumstances, family identity applications are more likely not to be approved under s137 due to the risk of their high sensitivity. These applications are often instead considered under other sections of the Act that may also enable access to family information and potential reunion.
In order for a decision to be made concerning your application and to locate the record of adoption, you will need to consider and provide detailed information to a range of questions on the application form.
Download and complete the Inheriting a deceased person’s rights to adoption information application form.
If your application is not approved
If your application is not approved, you may be advised that it is more appropriate to apply to register your name on the Reunion and Information Register (RIR) maintained by DCJ.
If you are asked to join the RIR, the following are possible options that will be discussed with you:
- place your name on the RIR and wait until / if, the person you are seeking also registers. This may be appropriate in situations where:
- it is unknown whether the adopted person knows of their adoption
- it is unknown whether other people in the birth parent's family know of the adopted person's birth
- other potentially very sensitive situations
- place your name on the RIR and potentially be matched with another person connected to the same adoption, who has also registered. If other people connected to the deceased person have also registered on the RIR a match will occur between the applicant and that person
- place your name on the RIR and have the AIU undertake an outreach on your behalf to locate and make contact with the person you are seeking. The AIU will consider whether this is the most suitable option in your individual circumstances.
As of 1 July 2022 all fees have been removed, and DCJ will no longer be seeking fees for any adoption application.
Searching for surviving relatives of the deceased
Sharing news about a death of an adopted person or death of a birth parent may be extremely distressing for both you and for the person receiving the news.
Adoption Information Unit recommends that you use the support of a specialist adoption intermediary service. The Adoption search guide will also provide guidance in your search for and potential contact with any surviving relatives of the deceased.