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An appellate panel in Albany, N.Y., has reversed a Family Court judge and unsealed adoption records so a mother can relay medical information to the child she gave up 23 years ago. The case involves a woman who wants her child aware of his biological parents’ predisposition to an array of treatable and possibly preventable conditions, including alcoholism, degenerative arthritis, stroke, cancer and heart disease. Unlike the trial judge, the Appellate Division, 3rd Department, declined to read in Section 114 of Domestic Relations Law a restriction that would allow disclosure of sealed adoption records only upon the application of the adopted child. The decision in the Matter of Baby Boy “SS” v. Rosemarie “TT,” 87420, is consistent with a 1993 4th Department finding in the Matter of Gloria N. Rocci, 96 AD2d 743. Both Appellate Divisions parsed the language of the Domestic Relations Law to find that applications to unseal adoption records for medical purposes can be brought by the biological parent. The case decided last Thursday involved a child released for adoption in 1978. The mother brought a petition in Broome County Family Court to unseal the adoption record so she could relay medical information to her child. Judge Herbert B. Ray dismissed the application on his own motion, finding that Section 114(4) contemplates disclosure of sealed adoption records only when the adopted child applies. Last Thursday the 3rd Department reversed in a unanimous opinion by Justice Edward O. Spain. Spain agreed that a reading of the statute could suggest that a biological parent is not a contemplated petitioner, even though it does not specifically restrict who may petition for disclosure. Domestic Relations Law states that disclosure can be ordered upon certification from a doctor that such relief is necessary to address a serious medical issue. It also states that a court entertaining such a petition must appoint a disinterested person to offer the biological parent the option of disclosing the medical information sought or consenting to an examination of the parent’s medical records. The latter provision was added in 1994. The 3rd Department said that biological parents enjoyed the right to petition for the unsealing of adoption records for medical purposes prior to the law’s 1994 amendment, and found nothing in the legislative history to suggest that the Legislature intended to alter that right. “We note that the statute affords Family Court wide discretion to protect the privacy of the parties involved, such as conveying the necessary medical information to the adoptive parents through an intermediary without disclosing the identity of the parties,” Spain wrote. “In this case, moreover, there is no indication that the petition was motivated by any purpose other than the child’s well-being.” Robert C. Kilmer of Binghamton, who represents the birth mother, now 38, said his client was moved to convey medical information to her son after she suffered a small stroke. He said it was his contention all along that the statute in question was created so that information of this type could be relayed to adopted children. Kilmer said his client did not, and does not, seek access to her son. He said the court will likely appoint a guardian to contact the man. Also on the panel were Justices D. Bruce Crew III, Carl J. Mugglin, Robert S. Rose and John A. Lahtinen.

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