TITLE 16

Health and Safety

Vital Statistics

CHAPTER 31. REGISTRATION OF BIRTHS, DEATHS, MARRIAGES, DIVORCES, ANNULMENTS AND ADOPTIONS

Subchapter I. General Provisions


As used in this chapter:

(1) "Dead body'' means a human body or such parts of such human body from the condition of which it reasonably may be concluded that death recently occurred.

(2) "Department'' means the Department of Health and Social Services.

(3) "File'' means the presentation of a vital record provided for in this chapter for registration by the Office of Vital Statistics.

(4) "Induced termination of pregnancy'' means the purposeful interruption of an intrauterine pregnancy with the intention other than to produce a live-born infant and which does not result in a live birth. This definition excludes management of prolonged retention of products of conception following fetal death.

(5) "Institution'' means any establishment, public or private, which provides in-patient medical, surgical or diagnostic care or treatment or nursing, custodial or domiciliary care, or to which persons are committed by law.

(6) "Live birth'' is defined as the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception (irrespective of the duration of pregnancy) which, after such separation, breathes or shows any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsations of the umbilical cord or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached. Heartbeats are to be distinguished from transient cardiac contractions; respirations are to be distinguished from fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.

(7) "Physician'' means a person authorized or licensed to practice medicine or osteopathy pursuant to the laws of this State.

(8) "Registration'' means the acceptance by the Office of Vital Statistics and the incorporation of vital records provided for in this chapter into its official records.

(9) "Spontaneous fetal death'' or "stillborn fetus'' is defined as a spontaneous death (i.e., not an induced termination of pregnancy) prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception. The death is indicated by the fact that after such separation, the fetus does not breathe or show any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord or definite movement of voluntary muscles. Heartbeats are to be distinguished from transient cardiac contractions; respirations are to be distinguished from fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.

(10) "System of vital statistics'' means the registration, collection, preservation, amendment and certification of vital records; the collection of other reports required by this chapter; and activities related thereto including the tabulation, analysis and publication of vital statistics.

(11) "Vital records'' means certificates or reports of birth, death, marriage, divorce or annulment, and data related thereto.

(12) "Vital statistics'' means the data derived from certificates and reports of birth, death, spontaneous fetal death, marriage, divorce or annulments, and related reports.

40 Del. Laws, c. 96, §§ 1-10; Code 1935, § 806; 44 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; 16 Del. C. 1953, § 3124; 52 Del. Laws, c. 88, § 1; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 149, § 137; 70 Del. Laws, c. 378, § 1.;

(a) The Department has charge of the registration of births, deaths, marriages, divorces and fetal deaths and shall prepare the necessary methods, forms and blanks for obtaining and preserving such records and insuring the faithful registration of the same throughout this State and in the central Office of Vital Statistics.

(b) The Department is charged with the uniform and thorough enforcement of this chapter throughout the State and shall from time to time promulgate any additional forms and regulations that are necessary for this purpose.

27 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 1; 27 Del. Laws, c. 85, § 1; Code 1915, § 797; 33 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 4; 34 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; Code 1935, § 780; 16 Del. C. 1953, § 3101; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 149, § 138.;

The Department may adopt, promulgate, amend and repeal such regulations as may be consistent with law relative to this chapter, including regulations governing the conditions under which the bodies of persons dying from an infectious or communicable disease can be transported from any portion of the State to a crematorium for the purpose of cremation. The regulations shall be enforced by the Department.

25 Del. Laws, c. 66, § 9; 27 Del. Laws, c. 84, §§ 14, 18; 27 Del. Laws, c. 85, §§ 15, 18; Code 1915, §§ 818, 821; 33 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 4; 33 Del. Laws, c. 82; 34 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; Code 1935, §§ 801, 803; 44 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; 16 Del. C. 1953, §§ 3102, 3168; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 149, § 139.;

(a) There is hereby established within the Division of Public Health an Office of Vital Statistics which shall install, maintain and operate the only system of vital statistics throughout this State.

(b) The Office of Vital Statistics shall have branch offices in each county. The Department shall designate 1 such branch as the central Office of Vital Statistics, and this branch shall be responsible for the supervision of the operation of the other vital statistics offices throughout this State.

27 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 2; 27 Del. Laws, c. 85, § 2; Code 1915, § 798; 29 Del. Laws, c. 49, § 1; 33 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 4; 34 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; Code 1935, § 781; 16 Del. C. 1953, § 3103; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 149, § 140.;

(a) The Director of the Division of Public Health of the Department of Health and Social Services shall be the State Registrar and shall:

(1) Direct and supervise the system of vital statistics and the Office of Vital Statistics and be custodian of its records.

(2) Direct, supervise and control the activities of all persons when they are engaged in activities pertaining to the operation of the system of vital statistics.

(3) Conduct training programs to promote uniformity of policy and procedures throughout the State in matters pertaining to the system of vital statistics.

(4) Prescribe, with the approval of the Department, furnish and distribute such forms as are required by this chapter and the rules and regulations issued hereunder, or prescribe such other means for transmission of data as will accomplish the purpose of complete and accurate reporting and registration.

(5) Prepare and publish reports of vital statistics of this State and such other reports as the Registrar may deem necessary.

(b) The Delaware Health Statistics Center within the Division of Public Health shall have responsibility for the statistical analysis of vital statistics data and shall prepare and publish vital statistics reports of this State. The State Registrar may establish or designate other offices in the State to aid in the efficient administration of the system of vital statistics.

(c) The central office and each branch office of the Office of Vital Statistics shall offer voluntary paternity acknowledgment services, as described in § 3121(c) and (d) of this title, to the mother and putative father of a child born to unmarried parents.

(d) The State Registrar may delegate such functions and duties vested in the Registrar to employees of the Office of Vital Statistics and to employees of any office established or designated under subsection (b) of this section.

26 Del. Laws, c. 75; Code 1915, § 770; 27 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 2; 27 Del. Laws, c. 85, § 2; Code 1915, §§ 770, 798; 29 Del. Laws, c. 49, § 1; 33 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 4; 34 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; Code 1935, §§ 776, 781; 16 Del. C. 1953, §§ 3104, 3154; 57 Del. Laws, c. 591, § 14; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 149, § 141; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 216, § 104; 76 Del. Laws, c. 194, § 2.;

The Division of Public Health shall provide the Office of Vital Statistics with sufficient staff, suitable offices and other resources for the proper administration of the system of vital statistics and for the preservation of its official records.

27 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 2; 27 Del. Laws, c. 85, § 2; Code 1915, § 798; 29 Del. Laws, c. 49, § 1; 33 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 4; 34 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; Code 1935, § 781; 16 Del. C. 1953, § 3105; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1.;

(a) To preserve vital records, the State Registrar is authorized to prepare typewritten, photographic, electronic or other reproductions of certificates or reports in the Office of Vital Statistics. Such reproductions when certified by the State Registrar shall be accepted as the original records.

(b) The Department shall adopt an official seal for purposes of certification. Every certificate or other official paper executed by the State Registrar, in pursuance of any authority conferred by law, and bearing the seal of the Department shall be received as evidence when duly certified by the Department, under its seal, with the same force and effect as the original would, in law, be entitled to if produced in open court.

27 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 2; 27 Del. Laws, c. 85, § 2; Code 1915, § 798; 29 Del. Laws, c. 49, § 1; 33 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 4; 34 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; Code 1935, § 781; 16 Del. C. 1953, § 3106; 57 Del. Laws, c. 591, § 15; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 149, § 142.;

(a) In order to promote and maintain nationwide uniformity in the system of vital statistics, the forms of certificates and reports required by this chapter, or by regulations adopted hereunder, shall include as a minimum the items recommended by the federal agency responsible for national vital statistics, subject, however, to approval of and modification by the Department; provided, however, that every death certificate shall include the social security number of the decedent.

(b) Each certificate, report and other document required by this chapter shall be on a form or in a format prescribed by the State Registrar.

(c) All vital records shall contain the date received for registration.

(d) Information required in certificates or reports authorized by this chapter may be filed and registered by photographic, electronic or other means as prescribed by the State Registrar.

27 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 8; 27 Del. Laws, c. 85, § 14; Code 1915, § 805; 35 Del. Laws, c. 55; Code 1935, § 788; 44 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; 16 Del. C. 1953, § 3133; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 149, § 143; 71 Del. Laws, c. 216, § 59.;

(a) Those individuals and/or institutions responsible for completion of certificates or reports according to this chapter or regulations adopted hereunder shall complete all items on the forms provided by the State Registrar. The State Registrar shall carefully examine the certificates and reports received in the Office of Vital Statistics, and if they are incomplete or unsatisfactory, shall require such further information as may be necessary to make the record complete and satisfactory.

(b) No claim or cause of action shall arise and no judgment, damages, penalties, costs or other money entitlement shall be awarded against an individual or institution that furnishes vital statistics in accordance with this chapter.

25 Del. Laws, c. 66, § 7; 27 Del. Laws, c. 84, § 13; Code 1915, §§ 813, 815; Code 1935, §§ 796, 798; 44 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; 16 Del. C. 1953, §§ 3109, 3130; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1.;

(a) To protect the integrity of vital records, to ensure their proper use and to ensure the efficient and proper administration of the system of vital statistics, the records and files of the Office of Vital Statistics shall be considered confidential matter and shall not be open to inspection, except as authorized by this chapter, and regulations adopted hereunder or by order of a court of competent jurisdiction. Regulations adopted under this section shall provide for adequate standards of security and confidentiality of vital records and reports.

(b) The State Registrar shall upon receipt of an application issue a certified copy of a vital record in the Registrar's custody or a part thereof to the registrant's, the registrant's spouse, children, parents or guardian, or their respective authorized representative. The State Registrar shall, upon receipt of an application, issue a non-certified copy of a vital record, including an original birth certificate, to a registrant who is an adoptee 21 years of age or older. Others may be authorized to obtain certified copies when they demonstrate that the record is needed for the determination or protection of their personal or property rights or for genealogical purposes. The Department shall adopt regulations to further define those who may obtain copies of vital records under this chapter.

(c) The Department may authorize by regulation the disclosure of information contained on vital records for research purposes.

(d) Subject to the provisions of this section, the State Registrar may, by agreement, transmit copies of records and other reports required by this chapter to the federal agency responsible for national vital statistics and other offices of vital statistics outside this State when such records or other reports relate to residents of those jurisdictions or persons born in those jurisdictions. The agreement shall require that the copies be used for statistical and/or administrative purposes only and the agreement shall further provide for the retention and disposition of such copies. Copies received by the Office of Vital Statistics from offices of vital statistics in other states shall be handled in the same manner as prescribed in this section.

(e) Appeals from decisions of custodians of vital records, as designated under authority of § 3105 of this title, who refuse to disclose information, or to permit inspection or copying of records as prescribed by this section and regulations adopted hereunder, shall be made to the Department whose decisions shall be binding upon such custodians.

(f) When 72 years have elapsed after the date of birth or 40 years have elapsed after the date of death or marriage, the records of these events shall become public records and information shall be made available in accordance with regulations which shall provide for the continued safekeeping of the records.

(g) The State Registrar of Vital Statistics shall submit a monthly report of all births to women under 18 years of age to the Division of Child Support Enforcement of the Department of Health and Social Services, and to the Division of Family Services of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families for informational, investigative and/or child support purposes. The monthly report shall include the name, address, date of birth and Social Security number of the mother and father, if available, the date of birth and sex of the child.

(h) The State Registrar of Vital Statistics shall create a stillbirth certificate which shall be issued upon request to a parent (or authorized representative thereof) who is authorized to receive a certificate of fetal death under subsection (b) of this section.

27 Del. Laws, c. 85, §§ 6, 9; Code 1915, §§ 807, 810; 34 Del. Laws, c. 65, § 1; Code 1935, §§ 790, 793; 44 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; 16 Del. C. 1953, §§ 3110, 3134; 67 Del. Laws, c. 383, § 1; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 149, § 144; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 481, § 1; 72 Del. Laws, c. 70, § 1; 74 Del. Laws, c. 408, § 1; 78 Del. Laws, c. 121, § 1.;

(a) A fine of not more than $10,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, shall be imposed on:

(1) Any individual who wilfully and knowingly makes any false statement in a certificate, record or report required by this chapter, or in an application for an amendment thereof, or in an application for a certified copy of a vital record, or who wilfully and knowingly supplies false information intending that such information be used in the preparation of any such report, record or certificate, or amendment thereof; or

(2) Any individual who without lawful authority and with the intent to deceive, makes, counterfeits, alters, amends or mutilates any certificate, record or report required by this chapter or a certified copy of such certificate, record or report; or

(3) Any individual who wilfully and knowingly obtains, possesses, uses, sells, furnishes or attempts to obtain, possess, use, sell or furnish to another, for any purpose of deception, any certificate, record or report required by this chapter or certified copy thereof so made, counterfeited, altered, amended or mutilated, or which is false in whole or in part or which relates to the birth of another person, whether living or deceased; or

(4) Any employee of the State who wilfully and knowingly furnishes or processes a certificate, or certified copy of a certificate, with the knowledge or intention that it be used for the purposes of deception; or

(5) Any individual who without lawful authority possesses any certificate, record or report, required by this chapter or a copy or certified copy of such certificate, record or report knowing same to have been stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained.

(b) A fine of not more than $1,000, or imprisonment of not more than 1 year, or both, shall be imposed on:

(1) Any individual who wilfully and knowingly refuses to provide information required by this chapter or regulations adopted hereunder; or

(2) Any individual who wilfully and knowingly transports or accepts for transportation, interment or other disposition a dead body without an accompanying permit as provided in this chapter or regulations adopted hereunder; or

(3) Any individual who wilfully and knowingly neglects or violates any of the provisions of this chapter or regulations adopted hereunder or refuses to perform any of the duties imposed upon the individual by this chapter or regulations adopted hereunder.

25 Del. Laws, c. 66, § 9; 26 Del. Laws, c. 75; 27 Del. Laws, c. 84, §§ 14, 16; 27 Del. Laws, c. 85, §§ 15, 16; Code 1915, §§ 770, 818, 819; 28 Del. Laws, c. 60, § 2; Code 1935, §§ 776, 801, 802; 44 Del. Laws, c. 69, § 1; 16 Del. C. 1953, §§ 3111, 3139, 3152, 3157, 3169; 68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

No employee of the Office of Vital Statistics or other state offices established or designated under § 3105(b) of this title shall be subject to, and such persons shall be immune from any claim, suit, liability or damages or any other recourse, civil or criminal, arising from any act or proceedings, decision or determination undertaken or performed while discharging any duty or authority under this chapter, so long as such person acted in good faith, without gross negligence, and within the scope of the person's own duty or authority under this chapter or any other provisions of the Delaware law, federal law or regulations or duly adopted rules and regulations providing for the administration of this chapter, good faith being presumed until proven otherwise, with gross negligence required to be shown by the complainant.

68 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;