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Obtaining a Court Order for NY Birth Certificates

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Triborough Bridge at sunset; photo by Ryan Murphy.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer. I'll be updating this as I get new information but as of now I have not actually gone through with this procedure due to delays related to COVID-19. This information is not verified by me but rather a collection of information from around the internet. Please comment with any corrections and/or additions, thank you!

Obtaining Birth Certificates for Deceased Relatives from NY State

New York State requires a court order to obtain any birth or death certificates for deceased relatives. People want these birth certificates for a variety of reasons but I was looking to obtain my Grandfather's birth certificate in order to qualify for Italian Dual Citizenship (jure sanguinis). Seeking assistance from a lawyer will always be the best route to take, however, many people have succeeded going through this process by themselves.

1) Exhaust all other options when trying to find your relative’s birth or death certificate. Check with family members and follow any leads you can. This will generally be easier than filing a court order with New York State to obtain the relevant documentation. If your relative was born or died in New York City, you'll want to start with with NYC Health as it should be an easier process.

2) Prepare documents: You’ll need a Petition, Notice of Petition and Draft Order. You can download the templates below...

Download ZIP • 60KB

The templates offered here were originally from this post but I've cleaned them up a bit and put them in the correct format (to the best of my knowledge). Leave the Court Date and Index No. blank until you get to the Supreme Court Clerk’s office.

You'll want to include some exhibits in the filing but make sure they're relevant in order to prove your relationship, relative's place of birth/death and that you have a legitimate reason for requesting said documents (e.g. Italian dual citizenship).

  • Documents needed: Notice of Petition, Petition and Proposed Order

  • Ensure Documents are in the right format:

1’’ margins all around

Legal sized paper

Double spaced

Language in English

Black ink

One side of the paper only

  • Documents need to be signed in front of a notary public.

  • Remember to redact any sensitive information

  • Generate PDFs of documents

3) You'll need to file an Article 78 proceeding with the Supreme Court in the county where the person was born. You can use the NYS Supreme Court website to e-file.

First, file the petition that addresses the court as your initial document. You will add your exhibits under this (~$216). This will give you an index number; you should add the index number to all of your documents. Make sure to put in the date you want to go to court and they will give you a finalized date after you file your RJI. You can add the petition addressed to the respondent and the court order too; the order is how you want the judge to rule.

File the RJI ($95) and when you get it back, upload it to your case. They will assign you a judge and a return date. Put this information in all of your documents.

4) Get a process server in Albany to serve the papers to your "defendant" which is the NYS Dept of Health/James V. McDonald, you may be able to do this online. You'll need to serve the NYS Department of Health with hard copies of the Notice of Petition addressed to the respondent and a Notice of E-file through the process server.

This should be (2) documents (~$100). Any document that requires a signature must be notarized.

5) The NYS Dept of Health/James V. McDonald will be served and they will hopefully send a letter to the court saying it's ok to release the appropriate records. Afterwards, you must show up to court to get the birth certificate from the DOH. You'll fill out a paper application, include the court order, and mail it to them (cannot be done electronically).

You'll have to get the birth certificate translated, then certified by the county clerk, which is different than a notary. The translation must be notarized, and then certified by the county clerk of the notary. Put all of this together and request an apostille through NY secretary of state. (10 per document) the whole file, if stapled together counts as one document.

6) Remember, you will have to translate, certify, and apostille every legal document that you want to submit to the consulate..

Based on other's experiences I'll be tweaking this procedure and included templates as needed. Feel free to leave a comment with your experiences, corrections, and questions (though I can't promise I'll have the answer).

[Thanks to Melissa in the comments who provided a detailed account of her experience]

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