Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual
Chapter updated: 01/14/2011

What are the statutory exemptions relating to birth and death records?

A number of exemptions exist for adoption, birth, and death records. For a complete listing, please refer to Appendix D.

1. Birth and adoption records

Except for birth records over 100 years old which are not under seal pursuant to court order, all birth records are considered to be confidential documents and exempt from public inspection; such records may be disclosed only as provided by law. Section 382.025(1), F.S.; AGO 74-70. Cf. s. 383.51, F.S. (the identity of a parent who leaves a newborn infant at a hospital, emergency medical services station, or fire station in accordance with s. 383.50, F.S., is confidential).

Adoption records are confidential and may not be disclosed except as provided in s. 63.162, F.S. An unadopted individual, however, has the right to obtain his or her birth records which include the names of the individual's parents from the hospital in which he or she was born. Atwell v. Sacred Heart Hospital of Pensacola, 520 So. 2d 30 (Fla. 1988).

In the absence of court order issued for good cause shown, the name and identity of a birth parent, an adoptive parent, or an adoptee may not be disclosed unless the birth parent authorizes in writing the release of his or her name; the adoptee, if 18 or older, authorizes in writing the release of his or her name; or, if the adoptee is less than 18, written consent is obtained from an adoptive parent to disclose the adoptee's name; or the adoptive parent authorizes in writing the release of his or her name. Section 63.162(4), F.S. And see s. 63.165(1), F.S. (state adoption registry); and s. 63.0541, F.S. (putative father registry).

2. Death certificates

Information relating to cause of death in all death and fetal death records, and the parentage, marital status, and medical information of fetal death records are confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1), F.S., except for health research purposes as approved by the Department of Health. Section 382.008(6), F.S. Cf. Yeste v. Miami Herald Publishing Co., 451 So. 2d 491 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984), review denied, 461 So. 2d 115 (Fla. 1984) (medical certification of the cause of death in the death certificate is confidential). And see s. 382.025(2)(a), F.S., providing for the issuance of a certified copy of a death or fetal death certificate, excluding the portion that is confidential pursuant to s. 382.008, F.S., and specifying those persons and governmental agencies authorized to receive a copy of a death certificate that includes the confidential portions. All portions of a death certificate cease to be exempt 50 years after the death. Section 382.025(2)(b), F.S.

By contrast, autopsy reports prepared by a district medical examiner pursuant to Ch. 406, F.S., have been held to be subject to public inspection. See Church of Scientology Flag Service Org., Inc. v. Wood, No. 97-688CI-07 (Fla. 6th Cir. Ct. February 27, 1997); and AGO 78-23. For more information about autopsy reports, please refer to s. G.2, of this manual.