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The Tel Aviv Family Court said on Sunday that a 41-year-old man adopted as a baby
should have the right to know the identity of his biological mother.
2010, “P.,” who was adopted at the age of five months, turned to the Family
Court for help after both his biological parents refused to consent to
P. knowing their full names and identities.
While by law the state
cannot disclose a biological mother’s identity to an adopted child, unless she
agrees, Judge Esther Zitnitski Rakover said she would order the Welfare Ministry
to contact P.’s mother and attempt to clarify “her moral obligation to meet with
[P.] and help him close this chapter of his life.”
However, the court
also said the man named as P.’s biological father has always denied paternity,
and legally cannot be compelled to disclose any personal details or take a DNA
test to determine if he is P.’s father.
P.’s quest to meet his biological
parents began in 1997, when he turned 27. He decided to apply to the Children’s
Services department at the Welfare Ministry for details of his biological
mother, hoping to meet with her and his maternal relatives. However, P.’s mother
refused to give him any personal details, except her first name.
biological father, now aged 72, continued to deny paternity and also refused to
meet with P.
In 2009, P. approached Children’s Services once again,
asking for details of his biological parents. However, again, his biological
mother refused, saying that her new family does not know about P. or the
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P.’s mother, who is housebound and sick, also said she did not
have the inner strength to cope with meeting her son.
“If you aren’t
adopted, then you won’t be able to understand it,” P. told the court. “To live
as an adopted child is in some ways to live in some sort of degraded way for
your whole life... You have parents and you have brothers and they don’t know
about you, and you have to live with that every single day.”
Zitnitski Rakover said that the case involved two substantial conflicts of
interest: the basic human right of an adopted person to know his roots and his
biological parents; and the biological parents’ right to preserve their
The court had to find the right balance between these two
opposing interests, the judge said.
“In weighing between the biological
parents’ right to privacy, and the child’s basic right to determine his roots,
it seems to me that the child’s right is more worthy of special exceptions,”
The judge described the right of an adopted person to know
the identity of his biological parents as “part of a basic need inherent in
human nature, so a person can build his own independent identity.”
right is enshrined in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child,
which says that a child has a right to preserve his identity, including his
nationality, name and family, the judge said.
Here in Israel, the the Law
on Adoption of Children (1981) gives an adopted child the right, when he reaches
19 years of age, to access certain information about his adoption in the
country’s adoption register.
An adopted child also has the legal right to
request his biological parents be traced, but only at the discretion of welfare
officers. If the biological mother consents, details of her identity are given
to the adopted child.
In ordering the Welfare Ministry to contact P.’s
mother and ask her to meet her son, the judge said that though the law states
that biological parents renounce their rights and duties towards a child when
they give him or her up for adoption, the law does not completely sever the
connection between the child and his natural parents.
inheritance law, for example, in the absence of a will, an adopted child
automatically inherits his biological parents’ estate, in which case a family
could discover the existence of another sibling, the judge said.
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