Petition Filed To Amend Birth Certificates of Parents and Grandparents

Was Relief Sought  Warranted Under NYC Health Code?

David Mastron petitioned the Court to amend the birth certificate of his father, Victor Mastron.  Specifically, he sought to change the name of the father on the certificate (his grandfather) from “Alberto Mastron” to “Ascensino Mastronardi”, the name of the mother (his grandmother) from “Giuseppina Mastron” to “Josephine Mastron”, and the mother’s unmarried name from “Giuseppina Mastron” to “Josephine Russo.”

In opposition, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene argued that the documentation provided to amend Albert Mastron’s name contained multiple spellings and aliases and, notably, the name sought was not among the aliases provided. The Dept. also opposed amendments to “Giuseppina Mastron” because the name and age listed on the supporting documents were inconsistent with the name written on the certificate. Mastron was also unable to provide a copy of his grandmother’s birth certificate for consideration.

In reply, Mastron argued that the name provided on the Ascensino Mastronari birth certificate was Albert Mastron’s legal name. With respect to Giuseppina, he argued her certificate of birth may not exist. Instead, Mastron relied on her baptismal certificate, marriage certificate, and immigration documents. Lastly, only in reply did he ask to amend “Albert Mastron’s” name to “Ascensino Tarquinio Domencio Mastronardi”, and Giuseppina Mastron’s age from “24 to “26.”

Because the amendments to Albert Mastron’s middle name and Giuseppina Mastron’s age at the time of Victor Mastron’s birth were raised for the first time on reply, they were not be considered by this Court.

The New York City Health Code provides that the “[a]pplication for amendments of a birth certificate shall be made by the parents or surviving parent, or by the legal guardian of the person whose birth certificate is to be corrected or by the person if such person is 18 years of age or over.”

Here, the application was not made by a parent, guardian, or the certificate holder. Rather, the petition was brought by the son of the certificate holder, which was not provided for in the health code. Mastron failed to cite to either a statute or binding precedent entitling him to make the requested changes. Accordingly, the Court denied the petition.

A person could, of course, seek changes to their own vital records and it made sense that a parent or guardian could seek changes to a certificate of a person under the age of 18. But the Court declined to extend that reasoning to a child making changes to the birth certificate of a parent. Mastron’s grandparents could have changed their son’s birth certificate but they did not. And Mastron’s father could have changed his birth certificate but he did not. It was not up to Mastron to change the records of deceased people to suit his current needs. And he did not explain how the Court could interpret the Health Code to permit him standing to request those changes.

The Court observed the practical implications of what Marston sought, and why not allowing it made sense. Changing the birth records of a parent or grandparent affects not only the requester but every other record that person might touch. It would affect marriage certificates, birth certificates of other children and death certificates.

Marston’s petition was silent about how those requested changes might affect those records and whether he had named all necessary parties (other individuals who might object to having those changes made). For example, if those changes were allowed, then his parents’ marriage certificate would not match up. If Marston had siblings, then their birth certificates would name a different father, and so on. Vital records were not to be changed because they were not now convenient to Marston’s plans; they are also historical records.

Additionally, even if Marston had the requisite standing—even if his father was seeking to change his own birth certificate and presented the same documents—the Court would deny the petition because the documents presented were insufficient.

With respect to the amendments to the name of the father listed on the birth certificate (Marston’s grandfather), he provided the birth certificate of “Ascensino Tarquinio Domenico Mastronardi” as support. However, Mastron sought to amend “Albert Mastron” to “Ascensino Mastronadi”, without either of the middle names. The Dept. correctly pointed out that the documents presented contain multiple spellings of Albert Mastron’s allegedly legal name. For instance, the birth certificate spelled the name as “Ascensio Tarquinio Domenico Mastronardi” while the death certificate spells the name as “Ascensino Tarquino Domenico Mastronardi”. But Mastron was seemingly not seeking to make changes to the death certificate as well.

With respect to the amendments to the name of the mother, Marston did not provide his grandmother’s birth certificate. Instead, he provided several documents in support of the requested name, but the dates of birth on the provided documents did not match the age indicated on the certificate. Specifically, the baptism certificate for Josephine Russo and the death certificate of Josephine Mastron provided that she was born on April 23, 1893, making her 26 years old at the time of Victor Mastron’s birth, while Victor’s birth certificate lists the age of his mother as 24. The Court found those documents were also insufficient to support the changes requested.

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