who owns a birth certificate

Who Owns a Birth Certificate?

Nearly 4 million babies are born in the U.S. each year. That’s a lot of new additions! When we are born in the United States or one of its territories, we are issued a birth certificate by the vital records agency nearest the location of our birth. Data collected on the state level such as time of birth, name, parents, and other identifying information, is submitted to vital records agencies by hospital staff, midwives, or even the parents if the child was born at home. This information is used for identification purposes, as well as census data collection, birth trends, maternal and fetal health statistics, and demographic trends that help the governments make policy changes for things like social programs and funding. When you turn 18 and head out into the world on your own, you’ll need certified copies of your birth certificate for certain life events.  

In unfortunate circumstances, your birth certificate and other vital records may be lost in the shuffle of a move, or  get left behind as the result of a disconnect or estrangement from your parents or guardians. On occasion, legal issues can arise if parents refuse to pass along adult children’s vital records. Let’s take a look at who owns a birth certificate, and the steps that can be taken if a legal guardian won’t hand over vital documents. 

Who Owns a Birth Certificate?

A birth certificate is the first and one of the most important identification documents we receive. It is required for an array of important life events including the ability to obtain federal and state forms of identification. Parents need it to enroll kids in school and some after-school programs such as youth sports. You’ll need a certified copy of your birth certificate to onboard at your first job, and to verify citizenship and identification to obtain a passport or Real ID. 

While things can get complicated if your parents or legal guardians won’t relinquish possession of your birth certificate or other vital records in reality, ownership of such documents lies with the issuing vital records agency. Certified copies of birth certificates and other vital records issued to citizens are just that… copies that allow citizens to utilize them for identification verification purposes as they pertain to certain life events. 

birth certificate ownership

Birth certificate ownership lies with the issuing vital records agency. When we are issued a vital records document, we are merely in possession of a certified copy.

This means that, while you or your parents or guardians hold physical possession of your vital record documents, the data and information contained within these documents is actually legally owned by the vital records agency responsible for issuing these physical documents. 

Can I Force My Guardian to Give My Vital Records?

While each situation is different, it can be difficult to navigate the legalities of forcing someone to hand over your vital records, especially if they legally authorized to obtain certified copies of your vital documents. While obtaining your vital documents from your guardians may be impacted by things such as a restraining order, or a desire to cut off contact with them, these vital documents may also impact their own personal life events. 


In the end, it may be necessary to speak to legal counsel for your next steps but in most cases, the easiest solution is to simply go about obtaining replacement copies. For help obtaining birth, death, marriage or divorce vital records, you can visit VitalChek.com. To replace your social security card, please visit the Social Security Administration website, here.

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