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Following the Footprints: New York Adoptees Gain Right to Obtain Their Original Birth Certificate

Following the Footprints: New York Adoptees Gain Right to Obtain Their Original Birth Certificate

By Meredith Chesler, Esq.

Beginning January 15, 2020, people adopted in New York State can obtain a certified copy of their original birth certificate.

Public Health Law Section 4138-E, signed by Governor Cuomo last November, allows adoptees who are 18 years of age or older to receive a certified copy of their original long-form birth certificate, listing the names of their birth parents rather than their adoptive parents.

CONS

Those opposed to the legislation have argued that biological parents of adoptees have a right to privacy, and that their choice not to have contact with their children should be protected.

Those skeptical of the legislation also questioned whether providing access to birth certificates would threaten the integrity of the adoptive family or that of the adoption process.

PROS

For decades, advocates for the legislation have argued that adoptees were being discriminated against, as they were being deprived of information concerning their biological family and cultural identity, a right possessed by adults who had not been adopted.

Similarly, it was demonstrated that adoptees were being put at risk of preventable illness and premature death due to lack of medical information. Access to the medical history of biological parents and family can provide helpful and even critical information in the treatment and prevention of hereditary illnesses and traits.

Ultimately, the legislation passed in both the Senate and the Assembly and was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on November 14, 2019.

LOOKING AHEAD

Adopted New Yorkers may now obtain a copy of their birth certificate. Proof of identity and a fee must be submitted to the state commissioner of health or the commissioner of health and mental hygiene of the city of New York, or a local registrar or any person authorized by either commissioner or a local registrar.

Adoptees can apply for a copy of their pre-adoption birth certificate or find out more information here.

Meredith Chesler is an associate in Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP’s Trust and Estate Administration Practice. Her work focuses on Surrogate’s Court proceedings, including administration of decedents’ estates; admitting wills to probate; administration and settlement of estates; and distribution of assets.