Utah + Father’s Rights issue = you guessed it…Larry Jenkins’ involvement. We have posts on two other fathers’ rights cases where he is the lawyer for the adoptive parents. See here.
Robert Manzaneres has a website at Illegal Adoption.com that tracks his case. Robert had a huge win last week when the Utah Supreme Court reversed the District’s court approval of the adoption of his daughter.
“Robert Manzanares has only seen his daughter one time in four years, because the child’s birthmother decided to allow the baby to be adopted by her brother and sister-in-law in Utah.
“When I learned she was planning to let our baby be adopted, I signed the Colorado un-wed dad Registry,” said Manzanares. “That leaglly means the child should be under Colorado paternity laws, but for some reason Utah courts ignored the legal orders from Colorado, which is why the custody issue is still being determined.”
Last week, the Utah Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling, meaning the case will be heard again and Rob’s status will be gone over again, while his daughter is allowed to stay with the adoptive parents.
Attorneys for the Colorado dad say, while they are encouraged by the latest ruling, they expect Utah is trying to stall the case out, which will mean Rob will have to continue spending money trying to get custody of his child. Already he has spent $170-thousand on legal fees.
“John Hedrick, Manzanares Colorado attorney, called the ruling a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it is still going to be a tediour [sic] process for Rob to achieve his ultimate goal.”
Hedrick also saying that rather than a rehearing in Utah, the case should be heard in Colorado, where Manzanares lives and where he timely filed to protect his parental rights.”
Colorado father fights for custody of daughter adopted in Utah
[KWGN 1/30/12 by Jon Bowman]
View the pdf of the case here.
Transcripts of the twelve hearings can be found here.
A timeline can be found here.
REFORM Puzzle Piece
Utah’s laws need to drastically change. Moving children across state lines after fathers have registered in the state in which both the mother and father live to adopt a child out is unethical and despicable.
Update: “He has a few pictures of his daughter from when she was a baby. He has a 15-second video from the only time he met her. They had a few minutes in a conference room at a courthouse when a judge ordered her to court. She was 10 months old. She will turn 4 years old in a few days.
He says the pictures and video are a treasure.
“It gives me something to hold onto when I’m down, when I’m thinking why this could ever happen in America,” he said.
Manzanares says he is taking on what feels like an injustice in the system. He was devastated after learning how few rights unmarried biological fathers have in Utah.
Almost five years ago, he and his longtime girlfriend, Carie Terry, were living in Denver when they found out they were expecting a baby. He says they had talked about getting married.
“It was probably the happiest day of my life, finding out I would be a dad,” he said.
Manzanares says at that point they were not even considering adoption.
He says that changed a few weeks later.
“She came back from her church service and stated to me that she would have to adopt this child to a Mormon family,” Manzanares said.
He says she wanted the child raised in a two-parent, Mormon home.
The conversation about adoption ended the relationship and began Manzanares’s legal fight to be a father.
“I stated from that day on that there was no way I’ll allow my daughter to be adopted. I will fight for her no matter what,” he said.
He filed a paternity action in Colorado District Court before his daughter’s birth. Colorado established him as the father.
Manzanares’s concerns grew after he got emails like this from the birth mother: “If you truly were concerned about the well being of this child, you would do the right thing and consent to an adoption in lieu of being a chromosome donor.”
She wrote that they could talk more later.
When she did not show up for a Colorado court hearing about custody, Manzanares had no idea she was in a Utah court that same day.
He did not know she’d gone to Utah, given birth early, and was giving consent for adoption, even though she knew Manzanares was adamantly against it.
Utah has the most restrictive laws on asserting an unmarried father’s rights in the country.
John Hedrick is Manzanares’s lawyer in Colorado. He also has a legal team in Utah.
“The most troubling fact is that not only did she know that Rob wanted to be involved with this child, but she took the steps to deceive and perpetrate fraud, not only in the Colorado court and the Utah courts,” Hedrick said.
Hedrick shared audio from court proceedings where the judge scolds the attorney for the adoptive family saying the birth mother acted with “deception” and “fraud.” The Utah judge found that Terry deliberately deceived Manzanares and hid information from the court in Utah and Colorado.
“To make matters worse, she has provided this child to her sister and her brother-in-law,” Hedrick added. “It’s not like she didn’t want this child to be raised by herself and Rob, she just didn’t want Rob to be involved in this child’s life, and she is.”
9NEWS asked the birth mother’s attorney, David Hardy, if he or the mother would do an interview for our story. He declined, but sent this statement:
“Four years ago when Carie made her decision, she was in the first position to determine the best interest of her child. She knew the child would be best served and her needs would be satisfied by having two parents in a stable and peaceful home. This has proved to be true and she opposes any disruption of the adoptive placement. Vilification of the circumstances and the people involved will not help the child, who most benefits most from adoption. It is her hope that in future legal proceedings and in the attention given to this case, the focus will be on what is best for the child and her needs.”
There are dads like Manzanares all over the country. They are accusing Utah law of intentionally making it difficult for them to protect their rights when they oppose adoption. They say some birth mothers flee to the state knowing that its laws make it very difficult for an unmarried, biological father to get custody.
One father has filed a federal lawsuit against the adoption agency, A Act of Love, and its lawyer, Larry Jenkins. He is the lawyer for the adoptive family in Manzanares case. The lawsuit alleges a vast conspiracy exists in Utah to take children from unwed biological fathers. 9NEWS asked Jenkins for an interview for this story. He declined. The adoptive family in the case also did not want to talk.
Utah’s Attorney General has said the law is set up to protect the “best interest” of a child.
Manzanares says he has felt that the law is stacked against him. Even though the judge found the birth mother was deceptive, the adoption was not overturned. There has been an emotional toll that he says is impossible to put into words.
“I have been in a battle across two states that has taken more than $170,000. That is nothing compared to missing four years of my daughter’s life,” he said.
The Utah Supreme Court ruled this month that Manzanares’s parental rights in Colorado should not have been terminated. It is a significant “win.” It is the first unmarried biological dad to win a ruling in Utah. But it is not over. There will be more hearings and more appeals and, according to Utah law, the final decision is based on “what is in the best interest of the child.”
Wes Huchins is the president of the Utah Adoption Council. He is an adoptive father and biological father who has worked and closed more than 1,700 adoptions to date.
“This is absolutely a groundbreaking decision and signals a major shift in our court’s interpreting the current law and calling for a change in our statute so that they are more birth-father friendly, at least in terms of giving them a legitimate opportunity to protect their rights in Utah,” Huchins said.
Huchins says he believes Manzanares will get his daughter back.
“I think there needs to be some decisions rendered by various courts, but I think it will end up back in Colorado and we’ll see some tension between Utah and Colorado courts,” he said.
Manzanares is not guaranteed a reunion with his daughter. He says he understands she is the one who could be hurt most. She has lived in a home all of her four years, and it is all she’s ever known.
“It is going to be hard on her. Is it going to be harder now? Or will it be harder when she is 18 years old when she reads through these court documents and says ‘Why didn’t you allow me to be with my father? Why did you take me from him?'” he said.
“We cannot stand by and let these adoptions happen. While it may be difficult to disrupt an adoption, we cannot standby and do nothing because to do otherwise, would incentivize women and those who work with women that place their children for adoption to do anything to get a child,” Huchins said.
“I want to bring my baby girl home to her real family. I plan on continuing climbing this mountain and enduring this strenuous climb ahead of me. I will never stop fighting for my child and nothing will keep me from her,” Manzanares said.
Manzanares says he loves nothing more than to spend time with his family. They set aside time every night for family dinner. They have another chair ready at the table.
He ends each day giving his son Braylen a bath and puts him to bed. He says you can never get time like that back.
Manzanares says he knows that in a way he wishes he didn’t.
On Thursday, a committee in the Utah legislature will have a hearing concerning a bill that would change the state’s adoption law. If passed, it would protect the rights of fathers in a more substantial way. Currently, the law states that if a mother uses deceit or fraud it does not have influence on the outcome of a case. That would change under the proposed law as well.”
System of injustice: Father says Utah law allowed ‘illegal’ adoption
[9 News 2/8/12 by Cheryle Preheim]
See our post about the proposed laws here.
Update 2: “Robert Manzanares says his pregnant girlfriend Carie Terry started changing after a Mormon bishop told he she wouldn’t reach the highest level of heaven unless she adopted her child to a Mormon family.
“I told her I disagreed – that I wouldn’t allow my child to be adopted. I said from that point on adoption is not in my vocabulary,” Manzanares told us.
Manzanares hired an attorney and began the legal battle against Terry to keep his daughter. But court documents show deceit was in the air – and Terry soon concocted a plan.
“Unbeknownst to me, she had written me an email – she was only eight months pregnant at the time – that she would be going out to see her ill father in Utah,” said Manzanares. But according to adoption records in Utah, that wasn’t true
They show that while there, Terry actually gave birth early and allowed her brother and his wife to adopt her child – all behind Manzanares’ back.
“And then the battle was in Utah. It was then to go to Utah and fight a court system that’s very unfavorable to un-wed biological father,” he said.
Manzanares immediately filed for paternity in Utah, but a district judge upheld the adoption.
He says he’s only seen his daughter one time, for just a few hours.
As his attorney discovered, in Utah, it is within the mother’s rights to lie to the biological father and put a child up for adoption without his knowledge.
It boils down to legalized perjury.
The battle has lasted for more than four years, costing Manzanares thousands and forcing him to travel between Utah and his current home of Los Alamos.
“It has cost me over $170,000 in attorney fees, I’ve been to court 11 times I’ve been to the Supreme Court of Utah,” he told us.
Utah’s Supreme Court took the case. It took almost a year and a half, but the court ruled in his favor, reversing the lower court’s decision which had denied Manzanares his parental rights.
There’s just one more hurdle in court before Manzanares gets full custody – but after more than four years, he says it’s all worth it.
“It’s the finish line – we’re going to be together. She’s going to know her father, she’s going to know him at a young age – I’m going to know her, I’m going to get to raise her, I’m going to get to be with her – I’m so happy it’s exciting I mean everything I fought for is now coming to an end it’s a reality that we will be together now and I’ll be in her life.”
The Utah Supreme Court’s ruling is being called groundbreaking. It is the first time in the state’s history that the court has ruled in a biological father’s favor.
Now lawmakers are trying to change the law to give unwed fathers more legal rights.”
New Mexico dad’s adoption case shakes up Utah courts
[KOB 2/19/12 by Eddie Garcia]
Update 3: ““About 3 months into the pregnancy, she determined she needed to end the relationship with me. And that’s when the conversation of adoption occurred,” said Manzanares.
Manzanares says he was against giving his daughter up and told his ex-girlfriend, Carie Terry. that he would take responsibility of raising the girl his own.
“She tried to get the Family Services in Colorado involved to try to work with us and try to get me to meet with them. I kept telling them, no, no, no,” said Manzanares.
Manzanares, who isn’t LDS, claims her Mormon bishop encouraged them to give up their parental rights and place the child with a Mormon family.
Although the couple broke up, Manzanares said he continued to pay for child support and offered to take her to doctor appointments.
“Obviously, she cut me off,” Mazanares says.
He says that began the legal process.
“I filed for paternity action in Colorado along with an injunction to adoption because I had this fear that she was going to adopt this child either way in the state of Colorado,” Manzanares said.
While the two were waiting for a scheduled court hearing, Terry told Manzanares she was going to Utah to visit her sick father. But adoption records in Utah lay out a different story. Terry had the baby prematurely in Utah and finalized the adoption, giving the baby to her brother and his wife, leaving Robert unaware.
“She had given her consent to the adoption the same day of the Colorado hearing. Actually, it was parallel meetings that happened within minutes of each other,” he said.”
“Carrie Terry declined an interview with FOX 13, but released a statement that says in part:
Vilification of the circumstances and the people involved will not help the child, who most benefits most from adoption. It is my hope that in future legal proceedings and in the attention given to this case, the focus will be on what is best for the child and her needs.”
Court hearing over baby’s adoption may mark change in fathers’ rights in Utah
[Fox 13 2/29/12 by Aaron Vaughan]
Update 4: “11 News contacted Carie, who lives in Denver. She thanked 11 News for calling, but said she didn’t have time to tell her side of a very long process and wouldn’t have a comment for our story.
The decision of the Supreme Court in Utah ultimately sent this case back to the Colorado court system.
Rob is expected in court in Denver on Friday, April 27 for a hearing to address when he will begin visits with his daughter, now 4 years old.
He is expecting the final custody arrangement will be worked out in future court hearings in Colorado.
11 News also discovered the girl’s adoptive parents are her uncle and aunt. As discussed in court, Carie said she wanted to give the girl to them as part of the secret adoption plan.
How they may fit into the final visitation arrangement is part of the next step of court proceedings.”
Utah Supreme Court Decision Sends Adoption Battle to Colorado
[KKTV 4/27/12 by David Nancarrow]
“In a hearing on Friday, a judge ruled Manzanares will get to see his daughter again soon.
“How he is introduced as father, friend, or relative is not for me to decide. I’ll leave that to a therapist. But, he needs to have parenting time with this child within 30 days,” the judge said.
“I can’t explain the emotion, the happiness, after such a hard fight … what this means to me,” Manzanares said.
“I guess it’s like a dream,” Gould said as she cried.
In court it also came out that the child knows Terry as her “auntie.”
“We need to think about that. When they spend time together now, is it as her aunt still or her mother? I mean, what are we going to do?” the judge asked.
Either way, in one hearing everything changed. Manzanares will get to know his daughter.
“This is a history setting day,” he said.
Next up is a custody trial to determine who will raise the little girl: Manzanares, the birth mother, or both of them jointly. The judge says that choice will be about what’s best for the child.
But Manzanares now knows he will still be part of his daughter’s life.
Fathers across the country in similar battles are following Manzanares’ case, hoping it will change their custody fights as well.”
Father battling Utah law will get to see daughter soon–
[9 News 4/27/12 by Jeffrey Wolf and Cheryl Preheim]
Update 5: “After the Utah Supreme Court ruling, a Utah judge dismissed Manzanares’ case so that it could proceed in Colorado. His parental rights were affirmed and, under the guidance of a child psychologist, he has slowly been introduced to and allowed to build a relationship with his daughter. She was told in October  that Manzanares is her daddy.”
Utah Supreme Court: Florida man gets a shot at being a dad
[Salt Lake Tribune 11/27/12 by Brooke Adams]
His website stated that he saw her on May 22, 2012-the first time since 2009. A new attorney was added on June 10, 2012. On June 29, 2012, the appeal to request to terminate his rights was denied. In September he wrote that the therapist was supposed to tell his daughter that he was her father in July. It sounds like that was delayed until October, though.
Update 6: “Six years after his daughter was placed for adoption in Utah without his knowledge or consent, Robert Manzanares is still fighting back.
On Tuesday, Manzanares filed a lawsuit in Utah’s federal district court alleging his former girlfriend, the adoptive parents and the attorneys who represented them colluded to deprive him of his parental rights and essentially kidnapped his daughter.
Manzanares, who is being represented by Salt Lake attorney Wes Hutchins, is seeking at least $120 million in damages.
Attorneys David Hardy and Larry Jenkins, who are named in the lawsuit and represented birth mother Carie Terry Morelock and adoptive parents Scott and Julissa Byington, declined to comment Tuesday. Hardy took over representation of Morelock from another attorney, who is not named in the case.
In the lawsuit, Manzanares alleges that what happened to him is a “clear-cut case of an illegal fraud-ridden infant adoption.”
The Utah Supreme Court essentially agreed in January 2012, when it overturned a lower court judge’s decision barring Manzanares from intervening to stop the adoption.
The adoption proceeding was dismissed in Utah and the case resumed in Colorado, where Manzanares had filed a paternity petition in January 2008, a month before his daughter’s premature birth on Feb. 17, 2008.
He is awaiting a decision from a Colorado judge, who is weighing Manzanares’ request for full custody of the child.
Morelock had denied in court papers filed in response to the paternity petition that she had any intention of giving birth in and pursuing an adoption in Utah.
But days after making that claim, Morelock traveled to Utah on the pretense of visiting a sick relative. She contacted the Colorado court Feb. 20, 2008, three days after giving birth, and said she would not be at a hearing scheduled for that morning because she was out of town.
That same day, Morelock appeared before former 3rd District Judge Robert Hilder and relinquished her parental rights to the Byingtons, her brother and sister-in-law.
Morelock did not disclose to either court that legal proceedings were underway in the two states; she also did not tell the Colorado court she had given birth and was proceeding with an adoption.
Manzanares learned Feb. 25, 2008, from someone who worked with Morelock that the child had already been born. He filed an emergency motion with the Colorado court, which entered a paternity finding days later.
Manzanares then moved to assert his rights in Utah.
In the lawsuit, Manzanares alleges that the two attorneys “encouraged” Morelock to engage in the fraudulent behavior and perpetuated other adoptions “even though they were first achieved through fraudulent conduct.”
The lawsuit alleges racketeering, fraud, conspiracy, emotional distress and interference with parental rights, among other things, and asserts that Morelock, the attorneys and the adoptive parents acted together to prevent Manzanares from associating with his daughter.
“Utah’s pro-adoption and anti-birth father laws, facilitated through fraud immunity, have given rise to a greater number of out-of-state birth mothers forum shopping Utah,” the lawsuit states, “and through their own efforts, aided by legal counsel, and in some cases by the prospective adoptive parents, they have been able to successfully place their babies through misrepresentation and fraud — keeping biological fathers in the dark through the process.””
Father sues ex-girlfriend, Utah lawyers, adoptive parents for stealing custody of his daughter[The Salt Lake Tribune 2/19/2014 by Brooke Adams]
Update 7: From Facebook: “To my Dear friends and family, I have received the decision in my six and half year battle for my daughter. I am severely sadden to inform you the decision is not favorable. I am utterly shocked and a bit numb to give full details. As a Father, who tried to do everything I could and paid over $425K in total legal bills and travel bills, I am devastated with what the legal systems has done to my daughter and I. No one has won this case and the only one who has lost is Kaia. She did not deserve what Utah and her Biological Mother did to her. To be honest the only person who won is her Biological Mother who gets the final get out of jail free ticket. I am financially and mentally broken while keeping in mind what is most important to me and that is ALL my children. I have a sown duty to my children and that is to be the best damn Father I can to every single one of them.
The Manzanares case, the one case that had Fraud written all over it and became the one that the Utah Supreme Courts said, enough is enough. The Best Interest of a child will never be served nor will it be granted to any Father when you have to wage a six year battle just to say your rights should not be terminated. How does any Father get his child back if we have to leave them with a system of injustice for 5/ 6 years?
Now, I won’t go as far to say we lost or that we are done because I did not lose my rights to my daughter nor did I win what should have never been taken away or even questioned in the first place? There comes a point though if you are a true man of your word you have to do what is right for your child against all odds. I spent countless nights thinking about what I would do if this affected my child? There is something wrong with this all and I am sure you can all see that and I was torn between doing something that could hurt the one person who deserved none if this, Kaia.
I apologize if I don’t respond too much right now and don’t give details. I am a bit too numb right now and we need some time to process, to heal and determine the next step. I don’t know if I can afford an Appeal at this point because we are financially in ruins with a $49K outstanding legal bill. The decision to Appeal is yet to be made. I have to put aside all my disappointment and continue my role of being a Father and the best one I can be. I will never question who I am or what I have done, nor will I say I am not a good father. Some day the sacrifices my family and I have made will be known to the only person who matters to us and that is my daughter.
Thank you all so much for your continued support and love. Every day was a war of emotions and there were so many of you who picked us up and gave us the courage to fight. Please no sympathy PMs or posts, turn those into writing congress, writing the media, tell the story of so many of us, tell my story, and I beg you please DO NOT harass the PAPs or the Bio-Mother on their FB pages it won’t help me. I am sorry to every Father fighting, I feel I have failed you in some way or another.”
Update 8:”It has taken years to get to this point. Robert Manzanares just spent the weekend with his biological daughter, Kaia, who was secretly placed for adoption in Utah, without his consent. The same day Kaia was handed off to him for their visit, he filed Notice of Appeal as part of his six-year legal quest to get custody of her.
Manzanares, who has been fighting in Utah and Colorado courts for his daughter Kaia, is the first man to have some success against Utah’s fraud immunity statute, which says even if it is proven someone lied during an adoption, it cannot be overturned.
The Utah Supreme Court found fraud so extreme in his case, the adoption was dismissed. Manzanares says justices “…really threw the book at the family, the attorneys and the mother and said we can no longer accept this fraud in Utah which is written into their adoption code.”
Kaia’s birth mother left Colorado while pregnant, with the claim she was going to visit a sick relative. She gave birth in Utah in 2008 without Manzanares’ knowledge.
Manzanares says Kaia’s mother simultaneously worked the court systems of both states. “It was not known to us, but 15 minutes prior to the 9 o’clock court hearing in Colorado, she had signed away her rights. My daughter had been born three days earlier, prematurely, and she was signing away her rights to my daughter.” He later learned the truth when a coworker alerted him Kaia’s birth mom had returned to work, no longer pregnant.
Manzanares’ legal saga did not end at the Utah Supreme Court. He was then sent back to Colorado to resolve custody. There, he had filed a paternity petition before the birth. The judge in Denver awarded joint custody, but decided the adoptive parents are “psychological parents” because their home is the only home Kaia has known.
Her adoptive parents knew otherwise from the very beginning, says Manzanares, “This family knew I existed… They knew about my paternity action. All the attorneys that have represented them have known about me wanting to fight and be a part of my daughter’s life, so they’ve known from Day One that I was going to fight for my daughter and wanted to be a part of her life.”
Manzanares has undergone reunification therapy with Kaia, but she remains in Utah with her adoptive parents while his appeal for full custody plays out. He considers the decision of psychological parents to be “a very dangerous term” and he is appealing because of the precedent it could set.
When asked, he estimates he has spent $500,000 on attorneys’ fees and travel costs. Now he is facing another court process, which could take months or years.
“I want her [Kaia] to come live with me and be raised by her real parent. And I do have heart for the adopted family. I do want them to play a role in her life.” Kaia’s biological mother had a different view, Manzanares says. “She actually had told me on a couple of occasions this was only a business to her and that we weren’t parents of this child and that the only way she could get back into her church was to get this child to a two-parent home.”
Fox News recently traveled to an adoption conference organized by the Utah Adoption Council, which has members who have had an active role molding the state’s adoption laws over the years. When asked about the controversy surrounding adoptions, conference speaker Tamra Hyde expressed support for keeping the state Adoption Act intact, “…it’s a good law and this law has served thousands of families, birth parents and children and it hasn’t gone well for a minutia of people, for a small amount of people.”
Hyde, a birth mother who did not place her child in secret, also stated, “… it’s hard for me to fault a woman for lying for the best interest of her child… I can’t in all confidence say I wouldn’t ever lie if I thought it was the best thing for my child.”
Jessalynn Bills Speight, who presented a session on “Stereotypes and the Media” at the conference, thinks birth mothers should have more say in the process. She does not see a huge problem with the law and it is okay for the state to be birth mother friendly. “They’re not the ones walking around with a Scarlet Letter. They get to go still hang out with their buddies, while we’re throwing up over a toilet.”
Adam Pertman is author of “Adoption Nation” and president of The Donaldson Adoption Institute. He says Utah has become a haven and “… people should be learning that Utah’s laws relating to adoption could probably use some fixing.” He adds a lot of people think a good adoption is a fast adoption, but a good adoption actually means everyone is treated ethically, with everybody’s rights taken into consideration.
Former Gov. Mike Leavitt, a Republican, signed the original legislation with the fraud clause 19 years ago. In a statement to Fox News, he says in part, “As with most laws, all of the ways in which it has played out may not have been anticipated at the time. If the legislature concludes the application of law has become imbalanced among the complex interests these matters must consider, they should take action.”
Lawmakers did introduce some proposals with mixed success in the most recent legislative session. A guideline for birth moms to live in the state for 90 days was signed into law, while other efforts stalled.
Wes Hutchins, president of the Utah Council for Ethical Adoption Practices (UCEAP), predicts problems will continue until fraud immunity is taken off the books, “…that just creates an environment that incentivises people to… be less than truthful and less than ethical, in not only their decision to place for adoption, but those working with them…”.”
Father fighting Utah adoption law to get custody of his daughter[Fox News 4/15/14 by Alicia Acuna and Faith Mangan]
Update 9: “A rally was held outside the Colorado Court of Appeals this week in support of a man who has spent the past eight years trying to gain full custody of his daughter, who was illegally adopted in Utah.
Rob Manzanares filed for parental rights before his daughter was born, after the child’s mother left the state. While a hearing was being held in Colorado, the mother signed away her unborn child to her brother and his wife in Utah.
Courts there ruled the adoption illegal because Manzanares had rights pending in Colorado for full custody.
While the case winds its way through the court systems in both states, the child has stayed with her adoptive family and Manzanares only gets limited visitation.
“I believe the combination was just legal with judges not knowing what to do when a father’s done everything right … like I have and then them wrangling through the legal system for so long has made it really hard because you know I’ve missed out on four years of my daughters life,” Manzanares said.
He hopes the appeals court will send the case back to the lower courts, which could — in light of Utah rulings — give full custody to him while the adoptive family in Utah would get limited visitation.
Lawyers say the appeals court could take up to two months to issue a ruling in the case.”
Rally for Colorado dad fighting for custody of illegally adopted daughter [KVDR 8/13/15 ]
“In a case that could have national implications, a Colorado father is seeking full custody of his daughter whom he says was illegally taken from him.
Rob Manzanares began his legal battle in 2007 when he found out that his longtime girlfriend was pregnant. Fearing she would flee to Utah to be with her family, Manzanares file for parental rights in Colorado. But it was too late. By the time the baby was born in 2008, Manzanares’ ex-girlfriend had given the baby up for adoption to her brother and sister-in-law in Utah.
After six years of legal wrangling, a judge in Utah ruled that the adoption was fraudulent since it was carried out without Manzanares’ knowledge or consent. The judge awarded Manzanares partial custody of his daughter. While the judge acknowledge that the adoption was fraudulent, he also noted that the adoptive parents had established a six-year relationship with the child and were the only parents that she’d ever known.
Manzanares is now, though, seeking full custody of his daughter. His attorneys have filed an appeal in the Colorado Court of Appeals, asking that the Utah judge’s ruling for partial custody be overturned and that Manzanares be awarded full custody.
The father says he’s been contacted by law schools and legal experts from across the country, with his case bringing into question the parental rights of fathers seeking custody of their children.”
Father appeals for custody of illegally-adopted daughter [(9 News 8/11/15 by TaRhonda Thomas]
Update 10: “The biological father of a child who was placed for adoption in Utah without his knowledge or consent has prevailed in the latest court battle in his seven-year fight for custody of his daughter.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that a Colorado juvenile court misapplied the law when it did not consider Rob Manzanares’ “equitable estoppel” argument, which is a defensive doctrine preventing one party from taking unfair advantage of another.
“Given the trial court’s express recognition that the circumstances under which the child came into interveners’ physical care were at best deceitful, if not fraudulent, it should have considered father’s equitable estoppel argument before it allocated any parental responsibilities to interveners,” the appellate court’s order states.
After affirming the lower court decision in part, vacating it in part, the appellate court returned the case to the juvenile court, directing it to consider a 2000 Supreme Court decision the court’s majority wrote “reaffirmed fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.”
In Troxel v. Granville, the majority described parental rights as “perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”
While Manzanares’ fight lives on, the child will continue to live primarily in Utah with the couple who has had custody of her since birth, and Manzanares will continue to have visitation rights in Utah and New Mexico, where he now lives. This summer, Manzanares had three or four weeks of “uninterrupted parent time” with his daughter, according to his attorney Wes Hutchins.
Hutchins said the appellate court’s order was significant because it found that the juvenile court “didn’t honor” the Troxel presumption.
“The Troxel court said biological parents are entitled to a presumption, unless they’re found unfit or incompetent, they’re entitled to a constitutional liberty interest protective presumption that their decisions are in the best interest of their child,” he said.
Manzanares works at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he has attained one of the nation’s highest security clearances to work with defense contractors, Hutchins said.
“It’s not like he’s a deadbeat dad or doesn’t have a job. He’s an upstanding guy,” Hutchins said.
Attorney Mike Hulen of Littleton, Colorado, who represents the Utah couple who has had custody of the girl since her birth in February 2008, said he was surprised how quickly the appeals court arrived at its decision and also by its order to remand.
The court ruled about 10 days after oral arguments in early August.
“Of course, we respect the decision and we are now discussing, the appellate lawyer, clients and I, the next step to take,” Hulen said.
The next hearing is the latest step in a protracted legal fight that began before the girl was born.
Manzanares petitioned a trial court in Colorado in January 2008 for a paternity determination and to enjoin any adoption proceeding. Manzanares, then a Colorado resident, alleged “serious and founded concerns that the child’s mother will flee to Utah, where she has family, to proceed with an adoption,” court documents state. He also sought an order allocating parental responsibilities to him.”
Father’s 7-year fight for child adopted in Utah without his consent moves forward [Deseret News 8/28/15 by Marjorie Cortez]
Update 11: “An order issued by a Denver Juvenile Court Judge could soon mean Rob Manzanares, whose more than 8-year battle for custody of his daughter has gained national attention, is able to gain the primary parental rights he is seeking.
Earlier this month, Denver Judge D. Brett Woods issued an order barring the adoptive parents of Manzanares’ 8-year-old daughter Kaia from seeking custody again, after the Utah Supreme Court overturned their adoption in 2012.
In 2008, Kaia’s biological mother signed off on the girl’s adoption to her aunt and uncle – the mother’s brother and sister in law. The adoption was conducted in Utah, where Manzanares says only one parent has to consent to an adoption. At the time, he says he made it clear to his daughter’s mother that he did not want to proceed with adoption and was not even aware she had given birth to his daughter six weeks prematurely.
“I thought, there is no way this could happen, this is America,” Manzanares said.
Manzanares had already filed to establish paternity in Colorado, and when Utah’s Supreme Court ruled the adoption illegal, the case was returned to Denver, where he’s been fighting for custody ever since.
According to the order issued on Dec. 2, Judge Woods writes the case has been characterized as “one of deception” in which the girl’s biological mother, her brother and his wife “deliberately” and “intentionally” mislead Manzanares to plan and carry out the adoption. Both the mother and her brother “explored the possibility of inducing labor early,” the order states.
Manzanares’ attorney, Michael Cheroutes, says the order has the potential to set precedent in other custody cases.
“This gives fathers a way to ask the court to look back and where that initial custody, where that initial possession of the child was gained through deceit or wrongful act, it gives the dads something they can do about it.” He added, “This order essentially says if you are going to take possession of a child in a wrongful way, through deception, through a wrongful act, you can’t be rewarded for that, we’re not going to give you custody.”
“I just could not believe that everything is going to go my direction and my daughter’s going to come home. I’m just in shock,” said Manzanares. “I want my daughter to have stability, to have a stable family and things in place for her to heal, so I want her to come home.”
Next, Manzanares will return to a Denver courtroom on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. to set a hearing date to determine who gets primary parental time and decision making rights.
“She’s just a happy, strong-willed, go-lucky child. She loves dolls, sports, soccer, ice skating, she’s a normal 8-year-old,” said Manzanares.
Kaia’s biological mother can ask for custody, but Manzanares says now, he feels strongly that he has a good chance of being awarded primary custody in the case.
CBS4 reached out to attorneys representing other sides in the case, but so far, has not heard back.
“I really hope we bring some light to this fight and really do what’s right for children… never give up,” said Manzanares.”
Father Could Be Granted Parental Rights After 8 Years[Denver CBS 12/6/16 by Lauren DiSpirito]