Adopted and need to see my birth certificate

All Woman

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

I am trying to obtain a copy of my birth certificate. I was adopted, live in the US, and will be in Jamaica next month. I was informed by the Registrar General's office that I need to petition the Family Court in order to get them to release my birth certificate. Before taking me to the US as a child, my father and my stepmother adopted me. I have been unable to obtain my birth certificate because it has been sealed. Do I need the help of an attorney to fill out the application to get the birth certificate released? I'm hoping I can finally resolve this issue. I would love to be able to finally see my birth certificate.

I am assuming that you are now an adult, and as such you have sought to obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate. I also assume that it was your stepmother who adopted you, since this is how you refer to her, and that your 'father' is your biological father, as you only refer to him as such and not as an 'adoptive father'.

I do not understand why your parents did not obtain a copy of your birth certificate after the order of your adoption was made, as they were entitled to do so. Are they still alive? Have you asked them for it? How did you manage to go through different stages of your life without producing your birth certificate? Wasn't one required for your registration at various schools, or for your driver's licence? It does not seem possible that your parents did not have at least one copy.

Anyway, you say that the Registrar General's Department has told you that you must apply to the Family Court (of your parish or wherever your parents obtained their order) to order its release to you, because it is sealed. Did they tell you why and when it was sealed? There must have been a particular reason for your birth certificate to have been sealed, as that must have been done by court order. In the normal course of things, a person is entitled to a copy of their birth certificate.

It is always a good idea to engage the services of a lawyer whenever a Government refuses to let you have something to which you are entitled, especially since you have not been given any reasons why your birth certificate was ordered sealed.

However, I would suggest that you first speak with the legal officer at the Registrar General's Department in order to get: (1) an explanation of the real circumstances surrounding your birth certificate, and (2) advice as to your next step.

At that point you can, if necessary, proceed to retain a lawyer to make an urgent application to the Family Court on your behalf, which can hopefully be heard before your departure from the island. If not, once your application is filed and supported by your truly detailed affidavit, the application can be heard in your absence with someone attending on your behalf with your lawyer on the hearing date. On the order being obtained, the application for certified copies can be made to the Registrar General's Department, and you can be in possession thereafter of your birth certificate.

One has to appreciate that if the certificate was ordered sealed, it was because the judge concluded that it was in your best interests (as a child) for it to be sealed. Since I assume that you are no longer a child, that principle would no longer apply in the circumstances, and so there should be no bar to it being unsealed to enable you, as an adult, to see and obtain copies of your birth certificate.

I wish you success and a happy future.

Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.

DISCLAIMER:

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.

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