Pennsylvania’s Father’s Rights Case

“A Pennsylvania man seeking custody of his biological child, who was born in Utah and adopted by a family in Tennessee, took his case to the Utah Supreme Court Tuesday.

It was there where attorney Wesley Hutchins argued that Pennsylvania law — not Utah law — should have applied in the case, given that Jacob Brooks and the child’s mother were both residents of Pennsylvania. But under Utah law, Brooks could not intervene in the adoption because he was facing a sex crime charge in Pennsylvania.

Continue reading “Pennsylvania’s Father’s Rights Case”

Pennsylvania Man Gets “Jenkins”ed in Another Utah Father’s Rights Case UPDATED

Larry is involved in so many cases that we coined a new phrase. To get “Jenkins”-ed means that your child was moved across state lines into Utah to be adopted without your knowledge.

Christopher Carlton began dating Shalonda Brown in 2009. Later that year, she became pregnant and they broke up a few months after that. Christopher had children from a previous marriage and still wanted to help her. He gave her money and bought her a car.

“But around the time Brown should have been giving birth, she vanished.

“Do you all know where she is?” Carlton said he asked her family when he contacted them about Brown’s whereabouts. “They said, ‘We don’t know.’ And I said, ‘We should file a missing persons report.’ The police told me I couldn’t because we weren’t married.”

Carlton said a few days passed and he received a phone call from Brown.

“I was really concerned, and I said, ‘Listen, forget pretty much what’s happening with us, where are you at?'” he recalled.

Carlton said Brown only told him that she had given birth to a boy, whom she named Jaylen. She told him the baby had respiratory problems and died.

“Even if my child was alive for two days and you kept it from me, it’s still unforgivable. But at least being a father, the honorable thing to do would let me give my child a proper burial.” he said.

Not knowing where Brown was or where his son’s body was buried, Carlton began searching.

“I called every single NICU unit on the Eastern Seaboard looking for that child,” he said. “I spent a couple thousand dollars renting cars, driving.”

“Carlton said privacy laws prevented him from learning anything about where his child might have been born and, subsequently buried.

In the meantime, he said he kept calling Brown for information.

“She got tired of me bugging her, so she went downtown and filed an emergency protection from abuse order,” he said.

In court documents filed in Lycoming County, Penn., Brown claimed that Carlton had “pushed” her and threatened to “make [her] life a living hell.”

However, court transcripts obtained by KSL News show the charges were dropped when Judge Dudley Anderson told Brown he would be required to put her on the witness stand where she would be forced to tell Carlton where the child was buried.

The transcripts show Brown told Judge Anderson she wanted to drop the charges. He dismissed the order without prejudice.

“If I was such a hateful person, if I tried to cause her harm, if I tried to do anything evil to her, wouldn’t she still want to get on that stand?,” he asked. “(Wouldn’t she) still want to prosecute me so much?”

The truth

Months went by and Carlton still didn’t have any answers, until one day when his phone rang.

“She called on Oct. 19. [She said,]‘I want to tell you about the baby,'” Carlton recalled. “I said, ‘Woman, you’ve done enough. You won’t tell me where the body is. You won’t tell me how my son died.'”

This time, Carlton said Brown told him she wanted to talk but in front of a grief counselor the next day.

“She looked at me pretty much crying and said flat out, ‘The baby is not dead,'” Carlton said.

Brown then told him she put the baby up for adoption.

“Before I left, I said, ‘Where did you put my child up for adoption?’ And she wouldn’t say anything,” he said.

On November 1, 2010, Carlton filed a Complaint for Custody in Lycoming County, Penn. It was during the emergency hearing on Nov. 23 that Carlton learned where his child was.

“The judge said, ‘Mr. Carlton, your child was put up for adoption at a place called the Adoption Center of Choice located in Orem, Utah,'” Carlton said.

Carlton said he found the adoption agency’s phone number and called, thinking employees there would recognize the mistake.

“We made a mistake, yes,” he said. “But, these people came back to me with papers and said I don’t have any rights to know anything regarding that child — that means birth certificates, where the child was born, how much she weighed, nothing! I’m thinking how is this possible? She stole my child!”

Another lie discovered through the court process: Carlton’s attorney discovered the child was, in fact, a girl.

“Remember that boy you were fighting for?” he recalled his attorney asking him. “‘Yeah, my son?’ (He said,) ‘What if we told you it was a little girl?'”

The Utah court battle

On January 11, 2011, Carlton’s attorney filed a Motion to Intervene in Fourth District Court in Utah.
In court documents filed by the attorney representing the Adoption Center of Choice and Shalonda Brown, Larry Jenkins argued that “an unmarried biological father’s consent to the adoption is not required unless he strictly complied with requirement of the Adoption Act to timely establish parental rights.”

Jenkins maintained that Carlton did not establish his parental rights in Utah under the schedule required. Judge Steven Hansen agreed with that argument and dismissed Carlton’s case.

“The court said, ‘I’ve got enough information here and don’t need to know anything more. You’re done Mr. Carlton,'” said Wes Hutchins, Carlton’s attorney.

Hutchins has now filed an appeal to the Utah Supreme Court. “His constitutional rights were violated, and we’re asking the Supreme Court to recognize that and overturn the incorrect decision of the trial court.” he said.

When contacted, Brown refused to speak to KSL News regarding the court case.

However, the Adoption Center of Choice sent a statement through its attorney, Larry Jenkins, which read in part: “The district court carefully evaluated the facts alleged by Mr. Carlton and the claims he raised. The Adoption Center believes the district court ruled correctly and that second-guessing the district court’s decision or trying the case in the media is inappropriate.”

A child he may never know

“The only thing that gives me peace of mind is karma. When you do something that evil, it comes back to you. She’s got to wake up every day knowing what she did,” Carlton said.

Yet, he hopes karma will one day bring his daughter back.

“I’ll be sitting right here in this chair and I’ll get a knock at the door, and there will be some person there that I’ve never seen in my life,” he said. “She’ll say, ‘Hello, I think you are my father.'”

He said when she asks why he didn’t fight for her, he’ll tell her he did. But he’ll tell her Utah adoption laws stopped him cold.

“I’ve been through the foster care system. I know what that’s like,” Carlton said. “But Utah has no right to manipulate and misuse the laws that were in place to protect children. You’re using them for your own gain.””
Search for child stopped cold by Utah adoption laws, father says
[KSL 3/15/12 by Lori Pritchard]

REFORM Puzzle Pieces

Law changes need to happen in Utah. How many other cases are there like this one? How many other fathers think that their child has died when the child really has been adopted in Utah?

Update: “Chris Carlton of Williamsport has spent almost two years trying to find his child.

His story raises questions about the rights of biological fathers whose children are put up for adoption without their knowledge.

His journey to get to the truth has been filled with frustration and pain.

With six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Chris Carlton is used to battle.

But now, he`s home in Williamsport, fighting a different kind of fight.

“Where`s my baby?” asks Carlton, about the child he and his then-girlfriend conceived in late September 2010.

The couple split two months later, but Chris wanted to be a part of his child`s life.

So he says he kept in touch with the woman throughout the winter.

But, Chris says she left Williamsport without telling him in May 2011, eight months into her pregnancy.

Then in June, a week after the due date, Carlton says, the woman contacted a couple of his friends, who in turn told Chris the news.

“She called and told us the baby was born,” Carlton says quoting a friend.  “And I was like: `What? Why didn`t she call me?”

Two weeks after that, Chris says she sent pictures to his phone claiming it was their baby son.

He wanted to see him.

But in July, Chris says the woman showed up at his house, claiming, the baby had died.

“I`ve never felt that kind of pain,” recounts Carlton.  “And I believe no parent should feel that pain.  And for the people that have already felt the pain, God!”

Chris demanded to know where the baby was buried. He persisted for three months.

Chris Carlton says he received a call to hurry down to a women’s center in Williamsport, to meet with a counselor and his ex.  It was here, Chris says, the woman dropped a bombshell that changed everything.

“The baby`s not dead,” Carlton quotes the woman as saying.  “And I looked and I said, `What? What do you mean my child isn’t dead.’  And she said, `Wait, I put the child up for adoption.’”

Chris says she would not tell him where the adoption took place. So he took her to court in Lycoming County.

“The first thing the judge said to her, looking through the papers, `Where`s the baby?’” said Carlton.

After the court hearing, Chris says the woman told him that she had flown to Utah to give birth and to give up the baby to a business called “The Adoption Agency of Choice” Near Salt Lake City.

Chris Carlton says called the agency saying this: “My child was put up for adoption illegally, against my will, y`all need to give my child back.  ‘We don`t have to do anything ,sir.’”

Chris flew to Utah.

And he took his case to court.

But in January, a Utah judge ruled against Chris claiming he didn’t establish his parental rights in Utah fast enough to stop the adoption.

The attorney for the Adoption Center of Choice near Salt Lake City sent us this statement:

“In June, 2010, the Adoption Center of Choice (“Adoption Center”) assisted a birth mother from Pennsylvania with an adoption plan because she believed it was in her child’s best interests for the child to be placed for adoption.  Because she was not married to the father of the child, she exercised her right to privacy and chose not to name him.

The Adoption Center ascertained that no man had established any rights regarding the child in either Pennsylvania or Utah prior to the birth mother’s placement of the child for adoption and, therefore, the decision whether to place the child for adoption was the mother’s decision to make.  While the Adoption Center believes Mr. Carlton’s claim that the mother lied to him that the child had died is unfortunate, if true, this information was allegedly provided to him after the time for him to take action to establish rights had passed and did not affect the mother’s right to determine what she believed was in the child’s best interests.  The court specifically found that Mr. Carlton was not misled prior to the adoptive placement and that he had been presented with circumstances that would have alerted him to the need to take legal action if he wanted to be involved in his child’s life.

No timely proceedings were initiated in either Pennsylvania or Utah by Mr. Carlton.  The adoption was finalized after the child had been in the home of the adoptive parents for over six months because finalization of the adoption was in the child’s best interests.    Importantly, the child has now been with the adoptive parents for over two years.

The court in Mr. Carlton’s case carefully evaluated his claims and correctly determined that Mr. Carlton could not disrupt the adoption.”

“It’s my child,” says Chris Carlton, vowing to fight on, as his daughter is being raised by others.

“My daughter is two years old,” says Carlton.  “I`ve never seen my child.”

By phone from Utah, Chris Carlton’s Attorney told us, Utah is home to several adoption agencies catering to out-of-state women because state laws are weighted against biological fathers.

Chris Carlton is appealing his case to Utah`s Supreme Court.

He claims that since he was told his child was dead, he had no chance to establish his parental rights in that state in what the court called, “a timely fashion.”

Searching for Adopted Child

[WNEP 7/10/12 by Dave Bohman]

This birthmother is just plain CRUEL! And the APs are no better!

The legislation we discussed last week HR 6035 Protecting Adoption and Promoting Responsible Fatherhood isn’t going to work EVER in cases where the birthmother tells the father that the baby has died.

Update 2: “The Utah Supreme Court is currently hearing the case and trying to determine what rights out-of-state birth fathers should have in adoption cases, reported The Salt Lake Tribune on March 26.”

“Despite the falsehoods, Carlton still has no rights to fight the adoption, according to Utah adoption laws. At issues, notes The Salt Lake Tribune, is “a controversial provision in Utah’s adoption law, which says unmarried biological fathers like Carlton can not use fraud or misrepresentations as a defense for failing to protect parental rights.”

Utah Justice Jill Parrish Utah law rules when conflicts between state laws occur. “Utah’s law says a father who is unaware of a Utah connection must take steps in his home state to protect his rights before a birth mother relinquishes a child to be entitled to notice of an adoption proceeding,” says the article.

The Utah Supreme Court has yet to make an official decision in the case. Carlton vows to continue his fight on behalf of his daughter.”

Adoption laws in Utah challenged by duped father

[Examiner 3/26/13 by Shawna O’Reilly]

Update 3:“Christopher Carlton of Williamsport won the right to pursue custody of a daughter he’s never met, due to a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court.

Utah’s highest court unanimously found a lower court judge made a mistake when ruling that Carlton forfeited his parental rights in the case that involves his biological daughter, who is now almost four years old.

In 2010, Carlton served as a military contractor in Afghanistan. He was away when his then-girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl.

When Carlton returned to Williamsport, he claims she said the baby was a boy and had died before Carlton returned stateside.

A few months later, as Carlton was pressing for details on the child’s death, he says his ex’s friends persuaded her to tell the truth: She flew from Williamsport to Utah, gave birth to a baby girl, and enlisted the help of a company named “The Adoption Agency of Choice” to place the child with an adoptive family.

When Carlton first tried to get custody, a lower court in Utah ruled that he had waited too long and that the time to challenge the adoption expired.

But, Tuesday, Utah’s Supreme Court ruled that the lower court did not take into account Carlton’s Constitutional rights and ordered that the Williamsport man be given a chance to claim that some of Utah’s adoption laws do not take into account his rights as a father.

In recent years, several military fathers have made the same claim about Utah, as they say their lost their parental rights while serving out of the country while children’s mothers were flown to Utah and paid to surrender custody of their newborns.

Last month, the Utah Supreme Court awarded custody of a two-year-old girl who had been raised by an adoptive family to the biological father, who serves in the US Army.  In that case, Sgt. Terry Achane’s estranged wife allegedly claimed he was in Texas, when he was in South Carolina, and could not be served.  The judge in that case called Achane’s treatment by The Adoption Center of Choice “utterly indefensible.”

Carlton, whose biological daughter’s placement was also handled by The Adoption Center of Choice, says he expects to have a new hearing on his case next month.

Meantime, the state of Utah revoked the license of The Adoption Center of Choice last week.”

Update: Williamsport Man Gets New Chance at Custody of Child He’s Never Seen[WNEP 2/25/14 By Dave Bohman]

Utah Father’s Rights Case-Rob Manzaneres UPDATED

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 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 [2012] 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 case

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]

Another Utah/ A Act of Love Domestic Adoption Debacle UPDATED

One guess on who is representing the adoption agency….

This time the biological mother and father are from Florida. The biological father registered on the Putative Father registry in Florida. When he heard that his pregnant girlfriend was going to “travel” to Arizona and Utah near the birth of his child, he registered in Arizona and attempted to register in Utah. Read on…

“A Florida man’s court fight to gain custody of his daughter, given up for adoption after her January 2010 birth, may hinge on whether he is allowed to argue a state employee’s delay in registering his paternity notice violated his due process rights.

The Utah Supreme Court is now considering whether Ramsey Shaud, of Crestview, Fla., adequately argued in a lower court that his constitutional rights were violated by the delay at the Office of Vital Records and Statistics, caused in part by the state’s four-day workweek and a legal holiday.
Shaud is the latest in a string of unmarried fathers from across the country to make his way to Utah in hopes of undoing an adoption — in this case, of a child referred to as “Baby Girl T.” It will likely be months before the justices issue their opinion.
Shaud, now 24, had a casual relationship with Shasta B. Tew, also of Crestview, Fla., in 2009 and learned in June that Tew was pregnant and due in February 2010. Shaud told Tew and her mother he was fully capable of and willing to raise the child; he objected when Tew said  she planned to have an abortion and when she backed out of the procedure and wanted to place the baby for adoption. Shaud filed with Florida’s Putative Father Registry a month after learning of the pregnancy and later refused to sign off on adoption paperwork. In mid-December, Shaud received a handwritten note from Tew informing him she planned to travel to Arizona and Utah for the holidays and would “stay on in Utah for awhile.”
Shaud immediately filed with Arizona’s Putative Father Registry but said he was unable to locate information on government websites about what he needed to do to protect his rights in Utah. He hired a Utah attorney, who on Jan. 12, 2010, filed a paternity petition and faxed a notice of paternity to the state records office.
Daniel Drage, Shaud’s attorney, also mailed a notice that day to the records office, which marked it received on Jan. 14. With the baby due in February, Shaud thought he was acting in plenty of time.
But Tew gave premature birth to a baby girl on Jan. 15.
The records office happened to be closed that day, a Friday, because of the state’s four-day work schedule, and was closed the following Monday, which was a federal holiday. A clerk filed Shaud’s paternity notice on Jan. 20, a day after Tew relinquished her rights and the infant was placed with adoptive parents through A Act of Love Adoptions.
A trial court judge ruled Shaud had failed to met a statutory deadline and had no right to object to the adoption. Drage argued the lower court improperly refused to let Shaud submit evidence detailing his filings.
“In this case, Mr. Shaud ran this race, ran through the maze and initiated his paternity proceedings and filed his notice prior to the birth of his child,” his appeal states. But, the office failed to act in a timely manner, a failure that was “unquestionably the result of gross negligence.
“To bar Mr. Shaud from asserting his biological right to his daughter in these circumstances contravenes all notions of fairness and due process,” Shaud’s petition states.
But the justices questioned Drage about whether he had properly preserved a constitutional claim by raising it in the trial court proceedings, something Drage maintained he did in oral arguments.
Larry S. Jenkins, the attorney representing the adoption agency, said it is “irrelevant” when Shaud sent his notice to the records office; what matters is when it was entered into the record, and that didn’t happen until the birth mother had already consented to the adoption.
The Utah Legislature purposefully set the time of filing to coincide with when a claim is entered into the Putatitve Father Registry to further “important policy interests,” Jenkins said in his court filing — namely, a clear-cut deadline that a birth mother, adoptive parents and adoption agencies could rely on and a “compelling interest in providing stable and permanent homes for adoptive children in a prompt manner.”
Shaud also failed to submit a copy of his court-filed paternity petition to the records office, which Jenkins argues is required by Utah’s adoption statute but Drage said is “discretionary.”
By officially accepting a paternity notice, the records office is signing off on a filing as complete, with a verified paternity petition and no conflicting paternity claims, Jenkins said. Shaud is simply trying to shift blame for not filing his notice sooner to the records office.

Did Utah four-day work week cost dad rights to his child?
[The Salt Lake City Tribune 9/7/11 by Brooke Adams]

REFORM Puzzle Piece

Update: “In a 3-2 decision, the Utah Supreme Court has found that Utah’s adoption law was “constitutionally defective” in depriving a Florida father a “meaningful chance” to develop a relationship with his child after a notice of paternity he filed was not recorded in a timely manner because of the state’s then four-day workweek and a federal holiday.

The high court reversed a decision by a trial judge who found that Ramsey Shaud had acted too late to stop the adoption of his daughter, born in January 2010. The justices sent the case back to the lower court to reconsider whether the Utah Office Vital Records and Statistics received Shaud’s paternity notice before the child’s mother placed her for adoption.

Shaud alleges, the court noted, that he attempted to protect his parental rights in a timely fashion but that the office “negligently delayed” entry of his notice in the state’s paternity registry, which the trial judge used as a basis of finding he had moved too late to have any say in his daughter’s adoption.

“We conclude that the district court’s interpretation of the [adoption act’s] strict compliance standard poses an unacceptable risk of erroneous deprivation of unwed fathers’ rights,” the court said. It also said that protecting the state’s compelling interest in timely adoption decisions did not require that a paternity petition be considered filed only at the time it was entered into the registry.

“Rather, we hold that Mr. Shaud’s notice must be considered filed when Vital Records received it, because, at that point, Mr. Shaud had done all that he could to strictly comply with the act,” the court said.

The opinion was written by Justice Christine Durham, who was joined by Justices Ronald Nehring and Jill Parrish. Chief Justice Matthew Durrant and Justice Thomas Lee dissented.

The court heard oral arguments in the case in September 2011. It issued the decision Friday, but it was not posted on the court’s website until Tuesday after The Salt Lake Tribune inquired about the ruling.

“I honestly never thought this day would come!” Shaud said Tuesday. “All I can do is smile. … [It has] restored my faith in the judicial system out there, and I look forward to getting our case going in the lower court.”

Daniel Drage, his attorney, praised the justices for thoroughly considering the constitutional implications and due-process pitfalls of Utah’s current adoption law. Drage said he and his client were looking forward to getting back in court for a hearing to “establish that he has perfected his rights as a father, that notice was timely received by the Bureau of Vital Records and that he will have an opportunity to be a father to his daughter.”

While the decision assures Shaud, 26, a shot at making the argument that he acted in time to protect his parental rights, it does not guarantee he’ll get to parent his child — a matter that will likely involve numerous additional court hearings in which his fitness as a parent will be weighed against those of the child’s adoptive parents and what is in the child’s best interests.”

Florida Allegations

Shaud is involved in another case in Florida that may impact his bid to get his daughter back. “Ramsey Shaud faces an additional legal battle in his home state of Florida, where he was charged this summer with false imprisonment and battery after an argument with a girlfriend.

According to a warrant, the woman chucked a shoe at Shaud after he questioned her fidelity. He then responded by grabbing her and pushing her against a wall. The police report says Shaud also punched her cheek. She broke free, ran into a bedroom and tried to climb out a window but Shaud stopped her.

A struggle continued and the woman alleges Shaud punched her in the head several more times before she was able to escape again to a bathroom, the report states. She then managed to talk Shuad into allowing her to leave and later filed a police report about the altercation.

Shaud was arrested Sept. 25, booked into jail and then released on bond. Shaud was later charged with contempt of court for violating his bond conditions after exchanging text messages with the woman. He has pleaded not guilty. A court hearing is set for next month.

Shaud declined to speak at length about the incident because the case is still pending, but he denied hitting the woman.

“I do maintain my innocence,” he said. “I am not guilty of the charges I’m accused of. I didn’t do that.”

Utah Supreme Court: Florida man gets a shot at being a dad

[Salt Lake Tribune 11/27/12 by Brooke Adams]

Another Day, Another Single Dad Kept From His Child in Utah UPDATED and Lawsuit

Maybe we should just have a blog dedicated to this subject. oh-jeez

Jake Strickland says that his girlfriend secretly delivered their child and gave the boy up for adoption through LDS Services in December 2010. Jake’s mother helped him decorate the nursey in preparation for the child that he intended to raise. Just like John Wyatt .

“She delivered Jackson December 29. Jake texted her a few days later. “I asked her how did your doctors appointment go and she says good no change,” she said.

Actually, she had already signed his baby up for adoption and by the time Jake found out it was too late to get his son back.”

“Jake says he’s upset his girlfriend would deceive him and outraged the system will protect deception. “My son is 7 and a half months old. I’ve never met him that picture right there is one of the only ones I have of him,” said Jake.

He has spent $10,000 in legal fees to get his son back.”


“Any adoption agency that’s willing to stoop that low to destroy one family to create another should be should be shut down completely,” said Jake. Skype Emoticons

“Adoption attorney Wes Hutchins says Utah law supports deception. “She can lie. She can misrepresent. She can commit fraud. That’s expressly what the state permits the woman to do,” said Hutchins. He is also President of the Utah Adoption Council, but is speaking on behalf of himself and not the organization. ” Well, Wes, what are you going to do about it? How many separated families will it take?

“Utah’s Supreme Court Justice Christine Durham wrote, ” Utah risks becoming a magnet for those seeking to unfairly cut off opportunities for biological fathers to assert their rights to a connection with their children.” The statement was part of a dissenting opinion in the O’Dea v. Olea case.” I think you are there already.

Hats off to the local station for reporting this. Hope you don’t get fired or worse for it.

Father fighting adoption laws to get son
[ABC4 8/27/11 by Noah Bond]

REFORM Puzzle Piece

Update: Now a bill that may sanction agencies in Utah is being discussed and Jake’s case is the reason.

“On Wednesday, the Utah Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, saw photographs of the man and an obviously pregnant woman who was carrying the man’s child, Hutchins said.

The woman is depicted in photographs touring Temple Square with the biological father and his family on Dec. 29, 2009. The following day, the baby was born, unbeknownst to the biological father, Jake Strickland. Just over 24 hours later, the birth mother signed documents relinquishing her parental rights.

Strickland had been told by the birth mother that the baby would be delivered by C-section on Jan. 12, 2010, Hutchins said.

On Jan. 5, 2010, however, the woman told Strickland in a cell phone conversation that she had placed the baby with an adoptive couple, he said.

Strickland initiated a paternity claim the following day. He had not, however, registered with Utah’s putative father registry during the pregnancy.

Strickland later learned that the woman was not legally divorced from her husband, according to press reports. Under the state Judicial Code, a married woman’s husband is presumed to be the father of her child.

Strickland and his family have been engaged in a legal fight over the adoption for more than two years. Second District Court Judge David Hamilton could rule on the case as early as Thursday, said Strickland’s mother, Jenny Graham.

Hutchins, a family law attorney now representing Strickland, told the legislative committee that many pregnant young women from other states come to Utah to place their babies for adoption because Utah law has weak protections for biological fathers.

Hutchins told lawmakers that some agencies even “coach” birth mothers what to tell biological fathers who inquire about the child’s birth or their rights.

Among western states, few have as many paternal rights cases that go up to appellate courts, which suggest problems with Utah’s laws, he said.

Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, who is also an attorney, said it could also be construed that Utah’s higher courts are more amenable to hearing such cases.

To that end, Rep. Christine Watkins, D-Price, has developed a legislative proposal to further regulate the activities of adoption agencies.

A draft discussed by state lawmakers Wednesday contemplates sanctions for adoption agencies or employees of such agencies who make fraudulent representations in connection with adoptions.

Agency licenses could be suspended, even revoked, according to the proposal. The proposal also includes a provision in which a party that challenges a fraudulent representation in connection with an adoption and prevails, can be awarded attorney fees and costs.

Under the proposed legislation, notice of an adoption must be provided to an unmarried biological father of a child six months old or younger.

McCay said that portion of the draft legislation raised concerns because adoptive parents need to know that an adoption, when finalized, is final.

“I think there is some value to the finality and getting the kid out of the middle of a fight,” McCay said.

Hutchins, who told lawmakers that he has worked in family law for two decades, agreed that parents need that assurance.

He said he believes the attorney fees provision of the draft legislation would persuade any party against making false representations that could disrupt a placement.

Watkins asked the committee to take time to study the proposal and allow her to make further refinements before the interim committee takes any action.”

Proposed bill would penalize adoption agencies for fraudulent representations

[Deseret News 8/15/12 by Marjorie Cortez]

Update 2:“A West Jordan attorney and his Arizona-based client are suing for $130 million over an adoption that they say was unlawful, citing a federal act typically used to prosecute gang members and others involved in organized crime.

In the complaint filed Friday, attorney Wesley Hutchins and his client, Jake Strickland, accuse a Utah woman who had Strickland’s child, LDS Family Services, an LDS Family Services employee, the child’s adoptive parents and attorneys from the law firm Kirton McKonkie who aided in the adoption of “racketeering” and “kidnapping.” They also allege that the parties are guilty of wire fraud, human trafficking and selling a child.


Hutchins admits the allegations are attention-grabbing and the suit is intended, in part, to bring attention to the rights of birth fathers. But a lawmaker familiar with the case says the lawsuit is unnecessary.


The lawsuit hinges on the story of Strickland, who claims the woman with whom he fathered a child lied to him about her plans for the child until the day before the boy was born. But Hutchins said he pointed to other cases of alleged fraud in the lawsuit as well to demonstrate that the birth mother’s fraud was part of what he claims is a larger pattern found among adoption agencies and attorneys in the state.


“It’s really an issue of accountability,” Hutchins said. “With these fraudulent adoption schemes you find that they are fraudulent, there are co-conspirators involved — most notably adoption attorneys, adoption agencies and adoptive mothers that are engaged in an enterprise,” he said. “We’ve cited those other cases as a necessary element to RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) to show a pattern of unlawful conduct.”


Strickland fathered a child with a woman who was married but estranged from her husband. The woman said she was considering an adoption, but Strickland stated numerous times that he wanted the child and would care for it by himself if necessary, the lawsuit states.


The baby was born, unbeknownst to Strickland, on Dec. 29, 2010. Just over 24 hours later, the birth mother signed documents relinquishing her parental rights.


Strickland had been told by the birth mother that the baby would be delivered by C-section on Jan. 12, 2010. But on Jan. 5, 2010, the birth mother told Strickland in a cellphone conversation that she had placed the baby with an adoptive couple, according to the lawsuit.


Strickland initiated a paternity claim the following day. He had not, however, registered with Utah’s putative father registry during the pregnancy.


Strickland later learned that the woman was not legally divorced from her husband, according to press reports. Under the state Judicial Code, a married woman’s husband is presumed to be the father of her child.


According to the lawsuit, a social worker pressured the woman’s husband to relinquish his parental rights and allow the adoption to proceed. Hutchins said she even threatened the man after he mentioned Strickland, telling him that if he didn’t keep quiet he would be stuck with child support payments.


He also alleges that attorneys David Hardy and Larry Jenkins failed to inform the adoption court about a stipulation in a paternity case recognizing Strickland as the biological father and left the man in the dark about proceedings as they “rushed” the adoption. He said he and Strickland are seeking $30 million for what Strickland lost in being able to raise and enjoy his child.


The $100 million is “an amount specifically designed to serve as a deterrent to this kind of conduct,” Hutchins said. “Under the Utah Adoption Act you can commit fraud and it is not a basis to overturn an otherwise illegal adoption, you can sue for damages. … So you can’t get your child back if there’s a fraudulent adoption, but you can get money.”


The attorneys in the suit with Kirton McKonkie declined to comment, as did LDS Family Services. But Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said Strickland had an attorney who told him to follow Utah law and register as the father.


Weiler said he knows of the Strickland family and is sympathetic. He has heard Strickland’s mother testify at the Utah Legislature and has met with her.


“It’s a tragic story and she feels that she lost her grandchild and my heart goes out to her, but the protections there in the law were there and they weren’t followed,” Weiler said, emphasizing the ease of registering for paternity in the state.


“His rights would have been protected if he would have just followed the advice of his own attorney,” Weiler said. “The lawsuit takes a shotgun approach against a lot of good people and a lot of good entities that are doing lot of good. … It appears to me that they’re trying to blame everyone except for the responsible party.”


He said he is aware of pending lawsuits alleging injustices for unwed fathers in Utah, but said they don’t justify a serious change in the law. He noted that he is an attorney who has personally handled more than 100 adoptions.


“I’m not convinced that a dramatic change needs to take place, because when we make a change it affects tens of thousands of adoptions and what we’re looking at in this lawsuit and a few other high-profile lawsuits are one or two bad examples out of 10,000,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good policy for the state to look at one or two exceptions and say, ‘Let’s change the laws for everyone.'””

Unwed father alleges racketeering in adoption lawsuit[Deseret News 12/30/13 By Emiley Morgan]

Update 3:”Jake Strickland thought the mother of his child was going to keep their baby, not give the boy up for adoption.

Three years ago, the day before Whitney Vivian Pettersson Demke gave birth to their son, they were strolling Temple Square together, looking at the Christmas lights.

But the baby was swiftly placed with adoptive parents, as Strickland had not signed up with Utah’s putative father registry to retain his parental rights.

Strickland is now embroiled in a legal battle to gain custody of his child, a struggle that reached the Utah Supreme Court on Wednesday morning.

Strickland’s attorney, Wes Hutchins, argued that Demke deceived Strickland into thinking he had no reason to file and thus did not have a “meaningful opportunity to protect his rights.”

“She intended all along [to put the child up for adoption] — little known to Jake, because her conduct was exactly the contrary,” Hutchins said following the hearing. “She had every intent all along to place the child for adoption without disclosing that to Jake.”

Attorney Larry Jenkins — representing the adoptive parents, who are identified in court documents only by their initials — countered that Strickland was aware of what he needed to do to secure his rights, but didn’t.

Justice Christine Durham seemed to share that sentiment, telling Hutchins that his client “knew of those rights and had plenty of time to exercise them.”

The high court took the matter under advisement.

Strickland is among dozens of men who have waged similar fights in Utah, which arguably has the nation’s strictest laws governing unwed father’s rights.

“[Demke] told me that if I filed, she’d freak out,” Strickland said after Wednesday’s hearing. To sign up can cost $3,000 to $4,000 in attorney’s fees, and Strickland said he would have rather spent that money on providing for his son.

Demke gave birth on Dec. 29 and a day later placed the baby for adoption. Strickland did not learn until Jan. 5 that Demke had already given birth and relinquished her rights to the child.

He learned in November 2011 that his son’s adoption had been completed, but a 2nd District judge denied Strickland’s efforts to challenge the adoption. Strickland filed a notice appeal last January.

Strickland also has a $130 million federal lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court against Demke, LDS Family Services, the adoptive parents and attorneys, alleging they conspired in an “illegal deceit-ridden infant adoption.”

Hutchins clarified Wednesday that the adoptive parents are named as defendants so that he can find out what they did or did not know about the fraud.

Strickland added that the large sum of money is meant to deter adoption agencies from engaging in this sort of practice in the future.”

Utah Supreme Court hears father’s adoption appeal[The Salt Lake Tribune 10/8/14 by Michael McFall]

 Update 4: Jake loses!Boo! UT Courts]

“This is an appeal from the denial of a motion to intervene in an adoption proceeding. The motion was filed by Jake Strickland, the putative father of the child in question. The district court denied the motion on the ground that Strickland had failed to IN RE B.Y. Opinion of the Court 2 strictly comply with the statutory requirements in the Adoption Act for an unmarried putative father to preserve his right to contest an adoption. ¶2 In so doing, the district court also rejected Strickland‘s attempt to excuse his failure to fulfill the requirements of the Act based on representations made to him by the mother— specifically, her promise not to place the child for adoption if Strickland agreed not to file a paternity action. The court‘s rejection of Strickland‘s reliance on the mother‘s representations was based on a provision of the Adoption Act providing that a parent of a child conceived outside of marriage ―is responsible for his or her own actions and is not excused from strict compliance with the provisions of this chapter based upon any action, statement, or omission of the other parent or third parties.‖ UTAH CODE § 78B-6- 106(1). Strickland also challenged the constitutionality of this provision on various grounds rejected by the district court. ¶3 We affirm. Strickland forfeited his parental rights as a result of a private bargain he struck with W.P., not because of any unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful state action. We accordingly hold that Strickland has no viable interest in the child in question and therefore affirm the denial of his motion to intervene. “

LAWSUIT: A Act of Love Adoption Services UPDATED

John M. Wyatt has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Virginia for $22 Million in collective damages for himself, his mother and his daughter, Emma.

John “claims a Utah adoption agency, its attorney, the adoptive parents and their attorney used “improper, unethical and fraudulent means and methods” to deprive him of his parental rights and kidnap Baby Emma after her birth.”

“The complaint names A Act of Love Adoption Services, social worker Laraine Moon, adoption attorney Larry S. Jenkins, Thomas I. and Chandra Zarembinski, and attorney Mark T. McDermott, of Maryland.”

In part the claim is that “restrictive adoption laws, including a requirement that a putative father file with the state’s registry no later than 24 hours after a child’s birth” is part of a wider conspiracy that violates unmarried biological fathers’ rights and is “promoted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Utah Legislature, state agencies and the courts.”

“Wyatt’s federal lawsuit is believed to be the first to raise constitutional questions about Utah’s adoption laws, which at least half a dozen biological, unmarried fathers have unsuccessfully fought in state court. The lawsuit also seeks clarity on what happens when courts in different states make conflicting rulings regarding paternity and custody rights.”
[Salt Lake Tribune 3/3/11 by Brooke Adams]

Attorney Larry S. Jenkins has a long history of being on the receiving end of father’s rights lawsuits. A history can be found at Pound Pup Legacy Larry S. Jenkins Files .

Update: “The Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a Virginia father’s appeal to overturn the adoption of his daughter, a child known as “Baby Emma,” finding he did not meet required deadlines for asserting his parental rights.

The justices also ruled John M. Wyatt was barred from arguing that the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act required Utah to follow a Virginia judge’s order giving him custody of his daughter because he did not raise that argument in a lower court.
Attorney Larry Jenkins, who represents adoptive parents Thomas and Chandra Zarembinski and their adoption agency, said his clients were declining interviews and had asked him not to speak about the decision because of a federal lawsuit still pending in Virginia in which Wyatt alleges he was fraudulently deprived of his parental rights.
“I can say they are very gratified with the ruling,” Jenkins said. “They think the court did the right thing.”
“In Virginia, Wyatt said he was not surprised by the decision.
“This is what Utah does,” he said. “They steal people’s babies. It is like a big game to these people.”
But it’s not over, Wyatt said. “I am going to keep fighting for my daughter,” he said, adding a U.S. Supreme Court challenge is likely. “Whether I have to wait until she is of age, I want to be a part of her life. There is nothing anyone or those people can do to stop me from being part of her life.”
Jeri Wyatt, John’s mother, said she was “just heartbroken. We’re not stopping, and we’re going to fight like hell to get that baby back. They are not going to steal this baby because that’s all it is — a kidnapping. Shame on Utah for crafting biased, unconstitutional laws against unmarried biological fathers. The state of Utah has been doing this for years and they’ll continue doing it, and somebody has to stop it.”
“Wyatt has said he opposed the adoption of his daughter, born Feb. 10, 2009 in Virginia and placed with a Utah couple days later through A Act of Love adoption agency, from the start. He had hoped to raise the child, either alone or with his then-girlfriend, Emily Colleen Fahland, who is the birth mother. Fahland relinquished her parental rights to her daughter on Feb. 12, 2009.
Joshua Peterman, Wyatt’s attorney, argued a time-stamped receipt shows Wyatt filed visitation and custody petitions on Feb. 18 — five days before the Zarembinskis initiated an adoption proceeding in Utah. Wyatt also never received proper notice of Fahland’s intention to proceed with an adoption, Peterman said.
But Jenkins claimed Wyatt didn’t comply with other legal requirements in either state. The high court sided with Jenkins and noted Wyatt did not file anything with Utah until April 28.”
Utah’s statute requires unmarried biological fathers to follow a strict time frame, regardless of where they reside or where a child is born, to preserve any right to object to an adoption. The biological father must show he did not and could not have known an adoption was being considered; begin court proceedings to establish his paternity before a birth mother gives consent for an adoption to proceed; and demonstrate he is fully committed to assuming his parental responsibilities, such as paying for pregnancy-related expenses.”

Virginia father loses bid to overturn his daughter’s Utah adoption
[The Salt Lake Tribune 7/19/11 by Brooke Adams]

More information on the involvement of John and the coercion of the signature of adoption papers can be found at Pound Pup Legacy , excerpted below:

“He went to doctor appointments and spoke to the baby soothingly inside Fahland’s belly, with the belief that childhood connection to a father’s voice can begin before birth. Wyatt and Fahland, who have known each other since second grade and dated for about three years prior to the pregnancy, are still romantically involved, he says. While Fahland has declined all interviews with the news media, her attorney and Wyatt say she regrets her role in the adoption.

On the day of the Emma’s birth, Wyatt and his mother arrived at the hospital for the delivery, but the hospital would not let them in. So-called “silent patient” privacy policies allow patients to have no information released about them.

Wyatt knows what happened next only secondhand from Fahland and from court testimony. He says she was isolated in a hotel room and pressed by representatives of the adoption agency and her own mother to sign the relinquishment papers. “To me, it sounds like they took advantage of her,” Wyatt says.

It’s disputed whether Wyatt filed for custody of the child in Virginia court before the adoption papers were signed by Fahland, but both sides agree a Virginia court has granted temporary custody to Wyatt while the Utah court granted temporary custody to adoptive parents, Thomas and Chandra Zarembinski of Utah.”

Shame on you, adoptive parents! What are you going to tell your daughter when she asks why her biological parents aren’t raising her?She WILL find all the stories about what you have done some day.

For other Father’s Rights’ stories on REFORM Talk, click here.

Update 2 August 29, 2011: A Act of Love now has a statement posted on their website here and is pasted below:


In February, 2009, an unmarried Virginia birth mother legally and voluntarily relinquished her baby for adoption by a Utah couple. The birth mother freely waived Virginia law and consented to a Utah adoption. Meanwhile, even before the baby’s birth the biological father, John Wyatt, was told by the birth mother that she was working with a Utah agency about a possible adoption. The birth mother also told representatives of this agency that Mr. Wyatt had retained legal counsel, who we believed would help him protect his parental rights to the extent that he desired to do so. We repeatedly checked both the Virginia and Utah putative father registries over the following weeks, and when Mr. Wyatt failed to register within the time frames set out in Utah law, a formal petition for adoption was filed with the Utah courts.

That Mr. Wyatt failed to preserve his rights has been confirmed by the Supreme Court of Utah. That the interstate transfer was conducted legally was confirmed by the Department of Health and Human Resources of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Nevertheless, Mr. Wyatt has sued for money damages in a Virginia court.

Because these issues are the subject of the Virginia litigation, we have refrained – unlike Mr. Wyatt – from taking this case to trial via the media. In addition, we steadfastly honor our legal and ethical obligations to protect the privacy and abide by the wishes of our clients. For these reasons, so far only Mr. Wyatt’s side of the story has been told. We are confident that when all of the facts are presented, Act of Love Adoptions and its employees will be fully vindicated. All we ask is that people keep an open mind until both sides of the story are known.

Meanwhile we will continue to help people in need of our services, as we have in the past, with skill, compassion and integrity.”

John Wyatt has a website here. Scroll down to see the NBC Dateline report on his case. It is divided into six short parts and is a MUST SEE. It shows how the agency moved the “birthmother” to multiple hotels to keep her whereabouts a secret from John. It shows that a text message was what caused the Utah clock ticking, again affirms that the “birthmother” deeply regrets what she has done and much more.

This case is being discussed on some adoption yahoo groups. Beware of yahoo groups that are being run by adoption agency personnel as the whole story is likely not being discussed and comments are being moderated out. Shame on adoption industry personnel who back up these despicable, unethical and immoral practices or suppress open discussion.

Also see a comparison of this case with the Guatemala Anyeli case here.

Update 3: John is taking his case to the US Supreme Court. His website has the 145-page pdf of his filing at

It is very costly to bring this case to the US Supreme Court….in the tens of thousands of dollars. There is a donate button on his website, if you would like to assist:

We are routing for you, John!

“The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), a federal law that sets a “first in time” rule for interstate custody disputes, is designed to prevent both problems but was “undermined” by the Utah Supreme Court’s July 2011 ruling against John Wyatt, he argues in a petition to the justices.

When an unmarried father such as Wyatt is in one state and prospective adoptive parents in another, there is great potential for “jurisdictional friction” if more than one state is allowed to address custody issues, the petition states. The petition asks the court to review whether the PKPA applied to the adoption case since Wyatt had filed a timely custody action under Virginia law and whether Utah violated Wyatt’s rights by shutting him out of the adoption proceeding involving his daughter.
“Given the overriding importance of the interests at stake, it is especially important that the ground rules for multi-jurisdictional adoption disputes be as clear, fair and consistent as the courts — including this court — can make them,” the petition states.
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a handful of decisions regarding unmarried fathers’ rights in adoption proceedings, but none of those rulings involved newborn infants. It will likely be six months or so before the court decides whether to grant a review.
Since 2008, higher courts in Utah have reviewed seven cases involving unwed fathers who lost custody fights despite filing timely paternity actions in their home states to protect their rights. The Utah Supreme Court is weighing a decision in a case involving a Colorado father that involves questions about the PKPA.
“Obviously, it is an important and recurring issue,” said Clifton S. Elgarten, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who is representing Wyatt. “The Supreme Court doesn’t take many cases, but we’re hopeful they will see the wisdom of considering this one.”
Utah attorney Larry S. Jenkins, who represents the adoption agency, said Friday he is still considering whether to file a response.”
“The Virginia court, under the PKPA, had jurisdiction to decide who received custody of Baby Emma, Wyatt argues. Instead, the Utah Supreme Court has “re-injected ambiguity and the potential for sharp conflict between states that the PKPA had seemingly eliminated with its jurisdictional command,” Wyatt argues, and “widens a split among state courts” in interpretations of the federal law.”

Virginia man asks U.S. high court to hear adoption case
[The Salt Lake Tribune 1/1/12 by Brooke Adams]

Update 4: “The Supreme Court of Virginia on Friday gave new life to the legal battle over a child known as Baby Emma by ruling her father was “purposefully kept in the dark” about her Utah adoption and could argue in federal court that the proceedings interfered with his parental rights.

In a split decision, the justices said John Wyatt could pursue monetary damages in federal court for loss of companionship, mental anguish, loss of services and expenses incurred in his fight to recover his now 3-year-old daughter. Wyatt has a lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against Mark McDermott, a Virginia attorney; A Act of Love, a Utah adoption agency; Lorraine Moon, the agency employee who  facilitated the adoption; Larry Jenkins, a Utah attorney; and the adoptive  parents.

The federal court had asked the Virginia Supreme Court to settle two questions: whether the commonwealth recognized the right to pursue a tort action for interference with paternal rights and, if so, what burden of proof must be met and what elements constitute a cause of action.

The decision is the first to address such questions in Virginia, the high court noted.

The majority found that while Virginia statutes do not specifically recognize “tortious interference with parental rights,” such a cause of action has existed in common law since 1607 and “continues to exist today.”

Failure to recognize that claim would “leave a substantial gap in the legal protection afforded to the parent-child relationship,” the majority wrote. It said an “overwhelming majority” of courts in “sister states” have reached similar conclusions.

“It is both astonishing and profoundly disturbing that in this case, a biological mother and her parents, with the aid of two licensed attorneys and an adoption agency, could intentionally act to prevent a biological father — who is in no way alleged to be an unfit parent — from legally establishing his parental rights and gaining custody of a child whom the mother did not want to keep, and that this father would have no recourse in the law,” the majority said.

It said the facts of the case showed that the defendants went to “great lengths to disguise their agenda from the biological father, including preventing notice of his daughter’s birth and hiding their intent to have an immediate out-of-state adoption, in order to prevent the legal establishment of his own parental rights.”

The court also found that Wyatt must meet a preponderance of the evidence standard, a less rigorous standard, in proving “tangible and intangible damages” caused by the “unauthorized” adoption.

However, under a tort action, Wyatt is not entitled to seek an injunction or new custody orders involving his child.

There were two dissenting opinions in the 4-3 decision. In one dissent, a justice said that while “the facts as pled by Wyatt are unquestionably disturbing,” there was no cause of action under Virginia law and the majority was engaging in “legislating public policy in Virginia through judicial

The majority, however, said it hoped that threat of civil action would help “deter third parties such as attorneys and adoption agencies from engaging in the sort of actions alleged to have taken place.”

“It means that if third parties interfere with a person’s normal parental rights, you can sue and hold them liable,” said Philip Hirschkop, Wyatt’s attorney. He said the federal case is set for trial in mid-July.

Wyatt and his then-girlfriend Emily Colleen Fahland were dating when she became pregnant. He accompanied Fahland to doctor appointments, and she repeatedly assured him they would raise the child together.

However, at the behest of her parents, Fahland also met with McDermott, an adoption attorney. He instructed Fahland to falsely indicate on adoption paperwork that she did not know Wyatt’s address, according to the court opinion. At McDermott’s urging, she also made other false statements to Wyatt
so that he “would not take steps to secure his parental rights and prevent  the adoption.”

Fahland gave birth in Virginia on Feb. 10, 2009, and two days later relinquished her rights and custody of the baby to the adoptive couple, who traveled to Virginia to pick up the infant. On Feb. 18, Wyatt initiated a paternity action in Virginia and was ultimately awarded custody of his daughter.

However, a Utah court subsequently found he had no standing to intervene and approved the adoption.

The Utah Supreme Court upheld that finding in July 2011, holding that Wyatt did not meet required deadlines for asserting his parental rights under Utah law. Also, the court found that he was barred from arguing that the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act required Utah to follow a Virginia
judge’s order granting him custody because he failed to raise that argument in the lower court.  ”

Virginia father gets green light to seek damages in Utah adoption
[The Salt Lake Tribune 4/20/12 by Brooke Adams]

REFORM Puzzle Piece