Society

Fathers File Lawsuit Challenging Utah's Weak Paternal Rights Laws

| by Jonathan Wolfe

12 men whose biological children were placed up for adoption without their consent are suing Utah over the state’s adoption laws.

The lawsuit was filed two weeks ago in a U.S. district court in Salt Lake City, Utah. The lawsuit says the state’s adoption laws create a "confusing labyrinth of virtually incomprehensible legal mandates and impossible deadlines."

The result of this “labyrinth”, the lawsuit says, is the "unconstitutional removal of children from their biological families, essentially resulting in their kidnapping and highly unethical and disruptive placement into adoptive homes without the knowledge or consent of their biological fathers.”

In Utah, a child under six months of age can legally be placed up for adoption by its mother without the father's consent unless the biological father actively initiates a petition to establish his paternity. This law differs from other states in which both parents of a child must actively work to sever – not establish – parental rights.

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The dynamic established in the Utah law allows mothers who wish to place their children up for adoption discretely do so without the father’s consent.

One father listed in the lawsuit claims he lived with his girlfriend for her entire pregnancy. The couple never discussed giving the child up for adoption. Then, days before giving birth, the mother disappeared. After going into labor at the hospital, the mother told health officials she wanted to give her child up for adoption. The biological father, under the impression that he and his girlfriend would raise the child together, never felt the need to initiate a petition to establish his paternity. Because of this, the child was legally adopted without his consent.

This case may remind some of you of Robert Manzanares, the 36-year-old man who has spent over $200,000 trying to regain custody of his child. Manzanares' girlfriend fled to Utah days before she was due to give birth. She placed the child up for adoption in the state without Manzanares consent, and he’s faced an uphill battle to gain custody of his daughter ever since.

The lawsuit alleges the Adoption Center of Utah frequently coaches pregnant women on how to place their child up for adoption without the father’s consent.

In one call from the center, a representative tells a caller that "Utah has the best adoption laws because you don't have to say who the father is. Even if the father doesn't sign the papers, you can still put the baby up for adoption."

During another call, a pregnant mother asks “Do I have to tell him I gave the baby up for adoption? Could I just say we had a really bad accident?” The representative tells the woman “You don’t have to tell him anything.”

Plaintiff Nicholas Thurnwald said Utah treats unwed fathers “like they’re scum – like they don’t have rights at all as far as having a relationship with their son.”

Sources: Fox News, Reuters