'Adopted man has right to know biological mom’s identity'

Judge rules after 41-year-old asks court to help after trying to find mother for 14 years.

Court gavel justice judge legal law 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Court gavel justice judge legal law 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
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.
In 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.
P.’s 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 adoption.
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.”
Judge 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 privacy.
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,” Rakover said.
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.”
That 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.
According to 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.