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COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

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The Pennsylvania Code website reflects the Pennsylvania Code changes effective through 52 Pa.B. 5624 (August 27, 2022).

231 Pa. Code Rule 15.20. Collection of Documents and Maintenance of Court File.

Rule 15.20. Collection of Documents and Maintenance of Court File.

 (a)  The clerk where parental rights were terminated and the clerk where the adoption decree is entered shall maintain as a permanent court file all court records pertaining to the adoption, including the docket, all petitions, exhibits, reports, notes of testimony, decrees and other filed legal papers.

 (b)  The clerk where parental rights were terminated and the clerk where the adoption decree is entered shall also accept the following items that shall then become part of the permanent court file:

   (1)  a statement of medical, personal, or social history information filed by a birth parent, a survivor of a deceased birth parent, the adopted individual who is sui juris, the legal or natural guardian of a non-sui juris adopted individual, or the descendant of a deceased adopted individual;

   (2)  a form promulgated by the Department containing medical, personal, or social history information completed by an individual named in subparagraph (1);

   (3)  an authorization or consent form signed by a birth parent permitting the release of identifying information, including, but not limited to, any signed form promulgated by the Department to authorize the release of identifying information and any signed form promulgated by the Department of Health granting the issuance of a summary of the adopted individual’s original birth record with identifying information about the birth parent;

   (4)  a form signed by a birth parent withholding the release of identifying information or revoking a prior authorization or consent given, including any such form promulgated by the Department or the Department of Health that is signed by the birth parent; and

   (5)  a notification from the Department given in accordance with 23 Pa.C.S. §  2915(c)(4) that an agency has closed and transferred its case records to another agency.

 (c)  In addition to the documents listed in paragraphs (a) and (b), the clerk where the adoption decree is entered shall also accept the following items that shall then become part of the permanent court file:

   (1)  an authorization or consent form signed by an adopted individual permitting the release of identifying information, or any form signed by an adopted individual withholding the release of identifying information or revoking a prior authorization or consent given, including any such form promulgated by the Department or the Department of Health that is signed by the adopted individual;

   (2)  requests for non-identifying or identifying information; and

   (3)  records or documents from an attorney who represented an individual in the adoption proceeding or who acted as counsel or as the guardian ad litem for the child, the minor birth parent, or a minor sibling of the child; provided that, the records and written documents concern the child, the birth family or the adopting family, such records and documents are in the format required by local rule, and the filing fee, if any, is paid.

 (d)  The clerk where parental rights were terminated shall copy and forward any statement of medical, personal, or social history information and forms signed by a birth parent authorizing the release of identifying information, withholding the release of identifying information, or revoking previously given authorizations as follows:

   (1)  a completed document in the form promulgated by the Department shall be forwarded to the Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry (‘‘PAIR’’); and

   (2)  documents in whatever form or format shall be forwarded to the clerk where the adoption decree has been entered if the court entering the adoption decree is known or reasonably ascertainable from information in the court file of the court that terminated parental rights.

 (e)  All documents described in subparagraphs (b)(1), (b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(4), (c)(1), and (c)(3) shall be stamped with the date of receipt and an acknowledgement of receipt shall be sent to the individual who filed the document or the clerk who sent the document.

Explanatory Comment

   In order to avoid confusion, the term ‘‘court file,’’ rather than ‘‘court records,’’ is being used to describe all documents that can be part of the court’s file because ‘‘court records’’ is statutorily defined in 23 Pa.C.S. §  2911 to include only the petition, exhibits, reports, notes of testimony, decrees and other papers pertaining to the judicial proceeding.

   The statute directs that notice of the filing of a statement of medical, personal, or social history information shall be given to ‘‘the individual who is at least 21 years of age and whom the information is intended to benefit, if known or identified in its records.’’ 23 Pa.C.S. §  2934(e)(2). Rule 15.22(g) provides the procedure for determining who is the person intended to be benefitted and how notice of the filing of this Statement shall be provided to that intended beneficiary. Because the procedure in Rule 15.22(g) requires the filing of an initial request for information and because all requests for information are filed through the clerk where the adoption decree is entered, it is that court, and not the court that terminated parental rights, that shall review the statement of medical, personal, or social history information, determining who is the individual intended to be benefitted and whether and how information is to be provided to that individual. The clerk where parental rights were terminated need only forward the statement of medical, personal, or social history information to the clerk where the adoption decree is entered, if such court is known or can be readily identified from items in the court file, and to the Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry (‘‘PAIR’’) if the completed Statement is in the form promulgated by the Department.

   PAIR has a website (www.pagov-pair.org) and is requesting that any statement of medical, personal, or social history information be forwarded electronically in a .pdf format. The clerk shall forward the Statement to PAIR in a .pdf format as filed.

   Notwithstanding the development of forms by the Department, the statute does not limit or restrict what statements and forms the clerk can accept from birth parents, adopted individuals or their statutorily permissible representatives. Thus, in keeping with the spirit of the statute, clerks are encouraged to accept any document that reveals medical, personal, or social history information from a birth parent, adopted individual, his or her statutorily permissible representative, descendants of a deceased adopted individual, or survivors of a deceased birth parent. Likewise, clerks are encouraged to accept and maintain any form or statement that reasonably can be construed as providing authorization or consent to release identifying information, withholding such authorization or consent, or revoking a prior authorization or consent given. The local courts are also free to adopt, through the promulgation of local rules, their own forms for such uses. The Department has designed sample forms for the local courts to use or to modify for use.

   Because requests for identifying information are permitted to be filed only with the clerk where the adoption decree is entered, only the clerk where the adoption decree is entered shall accept requests for non-identifying or identifying information and forms from the adopted individual authorizing the release of identifying information or withholding or revoking such authorization. See 23 Pa.C.S. §  2931(a). Despite the preceding sentence, the statute implies that the clerk where parental rights were terminated must accept and maintain as part of its court file an authorization or consent to release identifying information or any document withholding or revoking such authorization signed by a birth parent. See 23 Pa.C.S. § §  2933(a)(2)—(4). For this reason, Rule 15.20(d)(2) requires the clerk where parental rights were terminated to forward a copy of any such signed authorization or consent form or any document withholding or revoking authorization or consent to the clerk where the adoption decree is entered, if known, thereby streamlining the efforts required by the court that entered the adoption decree if a request for non-identifying or identifying information is later filed.

   Finally, attorneys representing a party to an adoption proceeding or representing a child thereto either as counsel or as a guardian ad litem are permitted to forward their records and information only to the clerk where the adoption decree is entered. 23 Pa.C.S. §  2916. In this age of document management and given the judiciary’s limited financial and physical resources, the attorney representing an agency may not deposit his or her records with the court as the agency already has record-keeping requirements imposed by the Department. See 23 Pa.C.S. §  2915. Moreover, the court, by local rule, may adopt procedures for attorneys forwarding documents to be retained in the court file, e.g., on a disc, CD-ROM, or other electronic format. The court may charge reasonable fees for the acceptance and retention of an attorney’s records. See 23 Pa.C.S. §  2913 (‘‘Any court. . .may charge reasonable fees for services provided under this chapter.’’).

Source

   The provisions of this Rule 15.20 added July 22, 2021, effective July 1, 2022, 51 Pa.B. 4267.



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