On Monday we told you about Preston King, the 19 year old father locked in a legal battle as he fights for custody of a daughter he was never given the chance to raise. Unfortunately, King’s situation is far from unique. Another father in the same situation has spent over $200,000 over six years in his efforts to be granted custody of his biological daughter. Here is his story.
The father is 36 year old Robert Manzanares of New Mexico. In 2008, he and his pregnant girlfriend were living in Colorado. After learning that his girlfriend wanted to give their unborn daughter up for adoption, Manzanares took all the right steps to ensure he’d be given a chance to raise his child. He filed for his paternal rights to the daughter and made it clear that he didn’t want his daughter put up for adoption.
Sadly, none of these steps mattered when the mother fled to Utah just days before giving birth to their daughter Kaia. In Utah, the mother was able to circumvent Manzanares’ paternal motions and give her daughter up for adoption. Kaia was taken in by relatives of the mother and has been raised by them ever since. She is now six years old.
But Manzanares never gave up his fight for Kaia. After five years he was given visitation rights to his daughter, but that’s not the point. He wants to raise her. Manzanares fought for an incredible six years just to have the custody case transferred from Utah back to Colorado, where his paternal rights request would be recognized. The case went all the way to the Utah Supreme Court which ruled that the mother “acted with deception” when she fled to Utah to give birth to Kaia.
“It’s just unbelievable that it can take a father five years to gain visitation, much less six years to get to who has the right to raise his child,” Manzanares said. “Constitutionally [I] should have every right to raise [my] child.”
The next three days will no doubt prove extremely stressful for Manzanares and his family. A three day custody hearing for Kaia began today. On December 13th, Manzanares will find out if he will be able to raise his child or if, like many times before, she’ll be taken from him. He claims that Kaia recently told him she wants to live with him.
“She said, ‘I want to live with you… my other family is not my real family only you are, why do I have to live with them?” Manzanares said.
The case has already had a profound impact on Utah’s adoption legislation. A new bill was passed in state legislature as a result of Manzanares’ case. The first, Bill 232, requires emotional support to be part of the criteria for deciding whether a biological father has abandoned a child up for adoption. It also states that Utah’s adoption laws may only be invoked if a woman has lived in Utah for 30 days prior to giving birth to the child.
Check out Manzanares’ site illegaladoption.com to find out more about his on-going fight to raise his daughter.