Since the 1950s, the Utah Court of Appeals and Utah Supreme Court have issued dozens of decisions regarding adoption and the rights of unwed fathers. This timeline highlights some of those cases, using the child's birth date as the point of reference.
Created by BrookeAdams on Dec 15, 2011
Last updated: 12/05/12 at 01:54 PM
Shaud learned in June 2009 that Shasta Tew, his former girlfriend, was pregnant. Shaud told Tew he wanted to attend all doctor appointments and the baby’s birth and was capable of and willing to raise the child if she did not want to.
In late July, Shaud filed with Florida’s Putative Father Registry to protect his rights.
Tew subsequently asked Shaud to sign papers giving his consent to an adoption, but he refused.
Shaud received a three-line letter from Tew in mid-December that stated she would be in Arizona and Utah with her family for the holidays and planned to “stay in Utah for a while.”
Shaud then filed a paternity claim in Arizona and, after being unable to find information about Utah’s Putative Father’s Registry online, hired a Utah attorney in early January 2010.
On January 12, Shaud’s attorney filed a paternity action in court. The attorney also faxed and mailed a paternity notice to the Office of Vital Records and Statistics, which was received two days later.
Tew, who was due in February, gave premature birth to a girl on January 15. On January 19, she relinquished the infant for adoption.
The vital records office was closed between January 15-18 because of Utah's four-day work week and a federal holiday. A clerk officially filed Shaud’s paternity notice on January 20.
Court findings: In May 2010, a district court found that Shaud had not “strictly complied” with Utah’s adoption law and had thus waived any right to assert his rights.
Shaud appealed and on Sept. 6, 2011, the Utah Supreme Court heard arguments in the case. A decision is pending.
In late November, the court ruled in Shaud's favor and sent the case back to the trial judge to determine whether he acted in time to preserve his rights.
Wyatt and Emily Fahland had dated on and off for years when she became pregnant in 2008.
Wyatt accompanied Fahland to doctor appointments, and the two spoke of marrying.
But in January 2009, Fahland began working with a Utah adoption agency. She identified Wyatt as the father and noted his opposition to adoption.
On February 4, Fahland called and texted Wyatt to inform him she was working with a Utah adoption agency. Wyatt contends Fahland only indicated that she was getting information from the agency.
Fahland gave birth on February 10 and two days later relinquished her rights to the adoption agency, which flew to Virginia with the adoptive parents to pick up the infant.
Wyatt learned of the birth on February 11 but was unable to locate Fahland.
He initiated custody and visitation proceedings in Virginia on February 18. The adoptive parents began adoption proceedings in Utah on February 23.
Wyatt filed with the Virginia Putative Father Registry on April 8. On April 28, he filed a motion contesting the adoption and seeking permission to intervene in the Utah case.
Court findings: In May, a Virginia judge found Utah had no jurisdiction in the case and that Wyatt’s consent to adoption was required. The court awarded Wyatt custody of the infant, a ruling finalized in December 2009.
A Utah judge ruled in June that Wyatt had waived his rights and gave the adoptive parents temporary custody of the infant.
In July 2011, the Utah Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision, ruling that while the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act challenge raised by Wyatt applied, he had failed to raise it in the lower court and also failed to timely assert his parental rights.
Wyatt subsequently filed a federal lawsuit in Virginia against attorney Larry Jenkins, adoption agency Act of Love, the adoptive parents and Virginia attorney Mark McDermott.
On December 15, Wyatt also filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
C.C.D. filed a paternity petition and affidavit 3 1/2 months before his former girlfriend gave birth to a girl, detailing his desire to provide for and raise the child.
He documented purchases of baby items, offers to cover the birth mother’s expenses and child-care arrangements. C.C.D. also filed a paternity notice with the Utah Department of Health. During the mother’s pregnancy, she refused C.C.D.’s help.
The mother gave birth on August 6 and two days later relinquished her rights.
C.C.D. learned of the birth on August 12. He filed an objection, again describing his plans to care for the child. He also attempted to amend his affidavit to address the court’s concern about what would happen if he was deported, but was denied that opportunity.
Court findings: The judge found C.C.D. had not strictly complied with Utah’s law because he had not agreed to a court order of child support or explained how he would care for the baby if he were deported.
In May 2010 the Utah Court of Appeals said the district court erred in requiring more of C.C.D. than called for by law, but upheld its ruling based on C.C.D.’s failure to agree to court-ordered child support.
Substantial compliance with the law is not enough, the court said, and “a father who fails to satisfy even one of these requirements may not block the adoption of his biological child.”
Dissent: Father made an unconditional declaration of support that included full financial responsibility, or child support and other expenses if he did not receive custody of the baby.
Any perceived shortcomings in father’s affidavit could easily have been relayed to him and corrected prior to mother giving her consent; denying that opportunity “invites opposing counsel to pursue creative challenges to a putative father’s compliance after it is too late for him to do anything about it.”
To read the decision, click on the link below.
Manzanares learned in July 2007 that Carie Terry, with whom he had lived for eight months, was pregnant. Several months later, they broke up. Terry told Manzanares she planned to place the child, due in late March, for adoption and he objected. She began making plans to give birth in and place the baby in Utah. On January 16, 2008, Manzanares filed a paternity action in Colorado. In a court document filed prior to a scheduled paternity hearing, Terry said she had no intention of going to Utah to place the baby for adoption, as Manzanares feared. Terry traveled to Utah in mid-February. On Feb. 17, she gave birth prematurely. She relinquished the baby on February 20, but during that court proceeding did not inform the Utah judge of the pending paternity action in Colorado, set for that very day. Terry telephoned the Colorado court on February 20 and said she was out-of-state and unable to attend Manzanares' scheduled paternity hearing. She did not disclosed the birth or that she had relinquished the baby for adoption. Five days later, Manzanares learned Terry had given birth in Utah and immediately requested an emergency hearing in Colorado. Court findings: In orders signed in February and March, the Colorado court acknowledged Manzanares' paternity and found it had jurisdiction in the matter, but did not rule on custody. On July 1, 2008, a Utah judge dismissed the adoption petition and ordered the baby turned over to Manzanares based on the pending paternity case in Colorado. Seven days later the judge reversed his decision and scheduled an evidentiary hearing. In August 2008, the judge vacated the order accepting Terry's consent to the adoption, finding she "purposely chose to conceal information" from both Manzanares and the judiciary. A new hearing was set on whether Manzanares complied with Utah law. That hearing took place in July 2009, after which the judge found that because Manzanares suspected Terry might give birth in Utah, he needed but failed to protect his rights in the state. Manzanares appealed the decision. The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on Nov. 4, 2010, but has not yet issued a ruling.
In March 2007, Sterling learned a woman with whom he'd had a brief relationship was pregnant. The woman told him she intended to have an abortion.
He objected but drove her to a medical clinic, but she said staff asked her to come back later. The birth mother declined further help from Sterling.
The woman did not have an abortion, and in October 2007 traveled to Colorado, where she gave birth to a girl on October 4.
Sterling first learned of the birth on November 4, after being contacted by a New Mexico adoption agency. The birth mother also contacted Sterling and requested he consent to the adoption. He refused.
On November 11, the birth mother relinquished the baby to a Utah adoption agency, which placed the infant with a family in Salt Lake County.
Sterling filed a paternity and custody action in New Mexico on Nov. 20, 2007 — seven days after, unbeknownst to him, adoption proceedings began in Utah. He learned of that action on Jan. 23, 2008.
On February 6, the Utah adoption agency filed a separate action to determine whether Sterling had any right to contest the adoption. Sterling tried to get that action dismissed by arguing New Mexico had jurisdiction.
A New Mexico court gave Sterling temporary custody of the baby on February 12, 2008.
Court findings: In April 2008, a Utah district court found the father had failed to establish his rights in Colorado, New Mexico or Utah by not filing with putative father registries before the birth mother signed relinquishment papers.
In October 2009, the Utah Supreme Court upheld that decision, saying the New Mexico paternity order “was of no force and effect because he had not established his initial right to make the determination.”
Ayers filed a paternity action in Indiana in June 2007 after learning his ex-girlfriend was pregnant. He filed a second action in Utah on July 20, 2007, three days before the birth of his daughter. He was not able to serve the papers on his ex-girlfriend, whom he alleged was evading service, until Feb. 11, 2008. Court findings: A district court found Ayers failed to serve his petition and summons on his ex-girlfriend before a 120-day deadline expired. The Utah Court of Appeals upheld the decision on Oct. 9, 2008.
T.J.M. and his girlfriend, both juveniles, conceived a child in 2006 but their relationship ended before the baby’s birth.
T.J.M. attempted to get receipts so he could assist with pregnancy-related expenses but was rebuffed.
Despite promising to allow T.J.M. to attend the birth, the mother registered as a “silent patient” when she gave birth on February 7.
The father was nevertheless able to locate and visit his newborn daughter at the hospital, where his girlfriend’s father offered him money to end his involvement.
He refused and worked out a monthly child-support plan and visitation rights with the mother and her parents.
For five months, T.J.M. regularly spent time with and helped care for the infant, provided supplies and took the infant to day care. The grandparents filed an adoption petition without T.J.M.’s knowledge, and on April 2 the birth mother relinquished her rights.
On June 20, the grandparents informed T.J.M. they were adopting the infant and his parental rights would thus end.
T.J.M. petitioned for paternity, custody and child support. The adoption was finalized on August 16.
Court findings: On July 3, 2008, a trial court refused to set aside the adoption, finding that T.J.M. had failed to preserve his rights under Utah law.
In May 2010, the Utah Supreme Court upheld that decision, finding that “once a natural mother has given her consent, the putative father’s opportunity to acquire a right to consent was eliminated by statute.”
The father had the opportunity to protect his rights at any time, with or without the mother’s cooperation, at any time after the father learns the mother is pregnant., the court said.
Also, without a more enduring or substantial relationship, he had no fundamental parental rights.
Dissent: “It is difficult to imagine what additional measures the father could have undertaken to secure a constitutionally protected parent-child bond with his daughter.”
During a trip to Oklahoma, K.M. was sexually intimate with T.C. She informed him in March 2006 she was pregnant, that she lived in Utah and planned to pursue adoption.
She gave birth to a girl in Utah on September 8 and relinquished her rights four days later. That same day, after finding no paternity registration on file, the infant was placed with adoptive parents.
The father filed a paternity action in Oklahoma and a notice of paternity proceedings in Utah on September 15. A month later, the new parents filed an adoption petition in Utah.
Court findings: In March 2007, a Utah trial court declined to hear the adoption petition because of T.C.’s pending paternity action in Oklahoma.
In April 2007, the Oklahoma court established T.C. as the baby’s father but dismissed his custody petition, citing lack of jurisdiction.
In June 2007, a Utah court said T.C. was entitled to notice in any further proceedings in the adoption case.
The adoptive parents then appealed to the Utah Court of Appeals, which in 2008 upheld T.C.’s “limited participation” in order to “identify and defend whatever parental rights he may have obtained under Oklahoma law.”
In a subsequent hearing, the district court denied T.C.’s custody petition, but, through an informal agreement, he has had two visits with his daughter.
Dissent: Even if a Utah court accepted the Oklahoma decision, T.C. would not be able to escape the deadlines imposed by Utah law and there was no good reason to compromise the child’s stable home by affording the father "a second-chance hearing."
O’Dea learned in the fall of 2005 that Ashley Olea, his former girlfriend, was pregnant. He talked her out of an abortion and offered to pay her expenses.
Olea later told O’Dea she’d miscarried the child, but he learned she was still pregnant and planned to pursue adoption.
O’Dea contacted Olea and LDS Family Services in Montana, then facilitating the adoption, to object. O’Dea also filed with putative father registries in Wyoming and Montana and sent a notice of his objection to LDS Family Services in Utah, which he believed oversaw adoptions in the two states.
On June 15, Olea called O’Dea from a blocked telephone number, informed him she was in Utah and said he would not “father” the child but would “pay child support until the child is in college.”
Asked if she planned to go ahead with an adoption, Olea responded: “If you understand what I have told you, that is all I have to say.”
O’Dea interpreted that to mean Olea planned to keep the baby.
Olea gave birth to a girl later that same day and 24 hours later relinquished her parental rights.
The Adoption Center of Choice confirmed O’Dea’s paternity claim in Wyoming but found no filing in Utah.
Meanwhile, O’Dea searched unsuccessfully for Olea, contacting police and setting up a website seeking information about her.
On July 24, Olea’s mother posted an entry on O'Dea's website confirming the baby’s adoption and identifying Larry S. Jenkins as the attorney who'd handled the adoption.
O’Dea sent a letter to Jenkins asserting his paternity but was told it was too late to intervene.
O’Dea filed a paternity action in Utah on August 14 and sent a paternity declaration to the Utah Department of Health on September 8.
Court findings: In August 2007, a district court dismissed O’Dea’s claim. The court found Olea qualified as a “temporary resident” of Utah and that O’Dea had thus failed to adhere to Utah law.
In July 2009, the Utah Supreme Court agreed that O'Dea had been given sufficient notice to protect his rights in Utah.
“While we agree that Ms. Olea’s phone call was certainly abrupt and one-sided, it unequivocally communicated to Mr. O’Dea that Ms. Olea was in Utah” and that he had 20 days to comply with Utah’s adoption law.
Dissent: There is a legal distinction between the concept of residence and that of a brief stay.
“Absent such a distinction, Utah risks becoming a magnet for those seeking to unfairly cut off opportunities for biological fathers to assert their rights to connection with their children.”
Thurnwald and his girlfriend had dated for more than three years when she became pregnant in 2004.
He participated in all but one doctor’s visit and bought a bassinet, crib, diapers and car seat in anticipation of the child’s birth.
They also met with an adoption counselor but the girlfriend assured Thurnwald she did not plan to pursue adoption.
The child was born prematurely on September 4 — a Saturday and the Labor Day weekend. Thurnwald found out about the birth later that same morning.
He called the mother at the hospital and learned she planned to place the child for adoption. Thurnwald drove to the hospital that day, but he mother refused to see him. She relinquished the baby boy to an adoption agency on Sunday.
Thurnwald filed a paternity action on Tuesday, as soon as courts reopened.
Court findings: In July 2005, a district court ruled that Thurnwald filed too late to protect his parental rights.
In 2007, the Utah Supreme Court reversed that decision, saying Utah's "one business day" filing requirement was unconstitutional because it didn’t allow an extension when a birth occurred on a weekend or holiday. It granted Thurnwald a new hearing.
Thurnwald lost again at the district court and, in 2008, at the Utah Court of Appeals. The appeals court found Thurnwald hadn’t strictly complied with the adoption statute because he failed to sign and notarize an amended petition or to spell out how he would care for the child.
Saying he would assume “all financial responsibilities” wasn’t enough, the court said.
“We believe the Legislature intended that the putative father at least specify that he has a source of income and identify who will care for the child while he is working to earn that income.”
Dissent: Utah law offers “absolutely no guidance” as to what constitutes a satisfactory plan for care of a child.
“Arguably, many, if not most, parents do not know their daily child-care plans at the time their child is born” and “severing an unmarried biological father’s parental rights based on such technicalities serves to reinforce traditional notions about gender and child-rearing.”
The LDS Church revised its statement to read, in part:
"When a man and a woman conceive a child out of wedlock, their first consideration should be to marry and work toward establishing an eternal family relationship. When the probability of a successful marriage is unlikely because of age or other circumstances, unwed parents are encouraged to place their child for adoption through LDS Family Services to help ensure that the child is reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses the birth parents, the child, and the adoptive family."
The statement went on to say a letter had been sent to all lay leaders throughout the church, counseling them to encourage adoption when marriage was unlikely. "Unwed parents are not able to provide the blessings of the sealing covenant. Further, they are generally unable to provide a stable, nuturing environment which is so essential for the baby's well-being. Unmarried parents should give prayerful consideration to the best interests of the child and the blessings that can come to an infant who is sealed to a mother and father."
Pruitt and the birth mother began dating in January 2002. In March, four days after Pruitt began serving a 22-month prison sentence for property theft, the girlfriend learned she was pregnant.
Pruitt arranged for his girlfriend to live with his mother; other relatives donated furniture and clothes for the coming infant. Pruitt and the mother initially stayed in contact through telephone calls and letters.
But in July, the girlfriend vanished and her adult daughter also cut off contact with Pruitt and his family.
In October, Pruitt received a letter from a Utah adoption agency asking him to waive his parental rights. He called the agency a week later and objected to an adoption. Pruitt said he was told his consent wasn’t needed.
At the end of October, Pruitt mailed an objection to the Fourth District Court in Provo, spelling out his intention to have his brother and sister-in-law care for the child until his release from prison.
He also attempted to contact attorneys in Utah and Alabama for help, but apparently was unsuccessful.
Pruitt's ex-girlfriend gave birth prematurely to a boy on Nov. 12 and relinquished her parental rights two days later.
Unable to afford an attorney, Pruitt then pursued court action on his own.
Court findings: A lower court dismissed Pruitt’s claim, finding he had not complied with Utah’s adoption law.
In April 2005, the Utah Court of Appeals upheld that decision.
To see Buddy Pruitt's letter to the Fourth District Court, click the link below.
Raymond J. Barnes and his girlfriend lived together for a time while she was pregnant with his son.
When the child was 18 months old, the mother placed him for adoption. In 2006, Barnes filed a petition objecting to the adoption.
Court findings: A juvenile court found that, despite being incarcerated for much of his son’s early life, Barnes had provided clothing, food, diapers and toys and kept track of his son. Barnes’ family supported the boy and his mother, and the toddler lived with Barnes for four months before being placed with adoptive parents.
Based on that, the court gave the adoptive family physical custody of the child and awarded joint legal custody and visitation rights to Barnes.
In 2007, the Utah Supreme Court ordered the child returned to Barnes “with all due haste.”
“Once an unmarried biological father has established standing to contest, and does in fact contest, an adoption, the level of bonding between child and anyone other than the biological parents becomes legally irrelevant,” the court said.
It is unclear whether Barnes and the child were reunited.
Belloso had just graduated from high school when his girlfriend got pregnant.
He rented a two-bedroom apartment and spent $1,000 on baby items, but the girlfriend refused his help.
Belloso’s attorney filed a paternity action in juvenile court on January 14, the day his former girlfriend gave birth. She then relinquished the baby.
Court findings: The juvenile court dismissed the case and told Belloso to refile in district court.
Two months lapsed before that happened. In September 2002, the district court dismissed Belloso’s complaint in a deal brokered by attorneys in the case — and which Belloso later claimed was without his consent.
In August 2003, Belloso filed a fraud lawsuit against the adoption agency and his former girlfriend.
A lower court dismissed Belloso's petition.
In 2005, the Utah Court of Appeals also dismissed the suit, saying Belloso's case had already been decided.
Osborne learned in December 2000 his girlfriend, Angela Baker, whom he had dated for about a month, was pregnant. Osborne bought a house and Baker, who was married to another man at the time, and her 2-year-old son moved in.
Baker told Osborne she had contacted a Utah adoption agency but, after he objected, assured him she wouldn’t proceed with that option.
Baker traveled to Utah in early August and gave birth to a son on August 6.
Baker called Osborne later that day to inform him she had decided against adoption and was returning to North Carolina with their baby.
They lived together until December 2001. During that time, Osborne twice tried to get himself listed as the baby’s father but Baker refused to cooperate.
In January 2002, Baker told Osborne she was returning to Utah to place the baby for adoption. Baker relinquished her rights on Jan. 4, 2002.
Osborne filed a paternity action in North Carolina on Feb. 11, 2002, and on Feb. 14, 2002, filed a complaint challenging Utah’s jurisdiction over an out-of-state father.
Court findings: A Utah court ruled in March 2002 that Osborne had not met legal requirements to preserve his parental rights.
He appealed, and filed a new lawsuit in federal court. Both challenges were dismissed.
Osborne appealed. In 2003, the Utah Supreme Court also ruled against Osborne, finding he “failed to take any timely action to preserve his rights to this child.”
Dissent: The majority decision means “the father of a child, with whom he lived and whom he supported for the first five months of its life, and whom the child’s mother unilaterally and clandestinely removed from his home and their resident state, has no legal means to prevent, or even require a hearing on, the placement of that child with strangers for adoption in Utah.”
On this date, the LDS Church reiterated its statement on adoption issued in 1998.
Al-Bahadli and his then-girlfriend Jill Lecheminant began dating in October 1998. They were discussing marriage when she learned in February 1999 that she was pregnant.
They put their marriage plans on hold after Lecheminant gave premature birth to a boy on August 10.
Al-Bahadli attended the birth and visited the infant daily during the four months he was hospitalized. The couple continued discussing marriage.
On Nov. 9, without telling Al-Bahadli, Lecheminant relinquished her rights and the baby was placed with adoptive parents.
In a court document, Lecheminant said: "The decision was very difficult, but I knew that I was not in a position to provide what [the baby] needed. I knew that adoption would be good for the baby. I made the decision because of my love for him. I did no inform Mahaoud of my decision at first because I feared he would be upset."
In a court affidavit, Al-Bahadli said he didn't understand what a case worker meant when she asked him whether he was willing to "place" the child.
"Never, at any time during the conversation, did [the case worker] use the word 'adoption,'" he said. "I am from Iraq, and prior to my child being adopted, I had never heard of the word 'adoption.' I had no idea what it meant. To this day, I cannot understand why anyone would want to give away their own child. This is contrary to everything that my culture and my religion have taught me."
Al-Bahadli filed for paternity and registered with the Bureau of Vital Statistics on December 1.
Court findings: A lower court dismissed Al-Bahadli’s complaint. In 2002, the Utah Court of Appeals upheld that decision.
Dissent: The father made clear his desire to rear the child, discussed marriage with his girlfriend (and, in fact, later married the woman), who acknowledged intentionally misleading him.
Utah’s adoption statute is “designed to facilitate adoption at the behest of single mothers rather than to protect the rights of single fathers. … Its text unfortunately does not distinguish between fathers in a monogamous relationship who are led to believe mother, father and baby will form a family unit, and ne’er-do-wells who have nothing to do with the mother after a casual fling that culminates in conception.”
S.H. and W.V. became engaged in June 1998. He learned later that same month that she was pregnant.
They discussed baby names and he bought her clothes, child care supplies and gave her money for other expenses.
S.H. also tried but was unable to get the pregnancy covered through his health insurance.
In July, the couple separated, and in October, they ended their relationship.
When W.V. told S.H. she planned to pursue adoption, he objected and proceeded to plan for a baby even though W.V. refused all contact.
In November, he contacted various agencies, including the Office of Recovery Services, about protecting his rights.
The office sent him a background form, which S.H. filled out believing it was a declaration of paternity. He was later told the office couldn’t open a case until the child was born.
On January 16, S.H. sent letters to the birth mother’s doctors asking that they bill him for expenses. By January 25, he had filed a paternity action in court and paternity notice with Office of Vital Records.
Meanwhile, parents selected by the mother began an adoption proceeding on Janury 12. The child was born February 14 and a day later the birth mother relinquished her rights.
S.H. subsequently sent the adoptive parents a $1,000 check to reimburse pregnancy and birth expenses. DNA tests conducted in March confirmed S.H.’s paternity.
From April to July, he had supervised visits with the infant while he pursued custody.
Court findings: A trial court ruled that S.H. made only token contributions toward pregnancy-related expenses and that his consent to adoption was not necessary.
In 2001, the Utah Court of Appeals reversed that decision and sent the case back to the lower court for a rehearing. The appeals court said its "holding that a father, in cases such as this, must only assume legal responsibility for expenses incurred in connection with the pregnancy and birth, and when requested and when able, pay his reasonable share of documented medical and pregnancy related expenses, creates a bright line rule that furthers the state’s interest in promoting certainty in adoptions.”
While the record is unclear what happened next, the father never gained custody of the child.
Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a letter on adoption and unwed parents that was distributed throughout the church. The statement read: "Priesthood and auxiliary leaders are again encouraged to teach members the importance of living chaste and virtuous lives. We reiterate our concern over the decline of moral values in society and the resultant number of children born out of wedlock and reared by unwed parents. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by parents who provide love, support and all the blessings of the gospel. Every effort should be made in helping those conceived out of wedlock to establish an eternal family relationship. When the probability of a successful marriage is unlikely, unwed parents should be encouraged to place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Social Services [now known as LDS Family Services]. Adoption through LDS Social Services helps ensure that the baby will be reared by a mother and father in a faithful Latter-day Saint family. Unwed parents who do not marry should not be counseled to keep the infant as a condition of repentance or out of an obligation to care for one's own. Generally, unwed parents are not able to provide the stable, nurturing environment so essential for the baby's well-being. When deciding to place the baby for adoption, the best interests of the child should be the paramount consideration. Placing the infant for adoption enables unwed parents to do what is best for the child and enhances the prospect for the blessings of the gospel in the lives of all concerned."
In mid-1996 Johnson learned from a mutual friend that Monica Orozco, with whom he'd had a casual relationship, was pregnant. At the time, he did not know her last name, according to court documents.
Johnson tracked Orozco down but initially thought she was lying about the pregnancy.
Johnson next saw Orozco when she was four or five months pregnant. She told Johnson she planned to have an abortion. Johnson objected and said he would raise the child himself.
Johnson sought advice from a local police department about how to protect his rights but was told he could do nothing until the baby was born.
Johnson then learned through a mutual friend that Orozco was considering adoption.
During a chance encounter months later at a Phoenix mall, Orozco told Johnson she had had an abortion, though she was obviously still pregnant.
Johnson offered to help financially but was rejected.
Unbeknownst to Johnson, Orozco came to Utah in February 1997. She gave birth on March 5 and relinquished her parental rights the next day.
Johnson learned of the birth in mid-March, but was unable to learn when and where the birth occurred.
He filed a paternity and child custody petition in Arizona on May 1, but an adoption proceeding was already under way in Utah.
The Arizona judge ordered a paternity test; Johnson filed a paternity notice on June 12 and an order for medical records on Sept. 8 in Utah. Johnson also tried unsuccessfully to get information about the baby from the adoption agency.
A final adoption decree was issued in Utah on Sept. 24.
Court findings: Johnson filed a federal lawsuit alleging due process and other constitutional violations, which was initially dismissed.
In August 2000, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found the U.S District Court for Utah erred and sent the case back for a hearing.
In a June 2001 decision, the district court found Johnson had not met paternity filing deadlines in either Utah or Arizona.
R.H.D. and his girlfriend conceived a child in early 1995. The girlfriend moved to Utah, gave birth on October 22 and relinquished the baby a day or two later.
The father filed a paternity action on October 30. Two days later, he filed a paternity notice with the Utah Department of Health.
After two weeks, the adoptive parents returned the baby to her mother. At the end of November, the birth mother and baby moved back in with the adoptive parents, who began adoption proceedings in December.
The father filed an objection to the adoption proceeding in March 1996. In May 1996, the birth mother and infant again moved out of the adoptive parents’ home.
In August 1996, a district judge dismissed the father’s claim but did not finalize the adoption.
About a month later, the initial adoptive parents opted to not proceed with the adoption, and the birth mother placed the infant with a new set of parents. Once again, the father objected.
Court findings: In a June 1997 decision, the trial court rejected R.H.D.’s claim, finding the adoption had failed because of his actions and that reinstating his rights would “encourage putative fathers to interrupt the relationships of children and their adoptive families in a way not intended by the Legislature.”
In 1998 the Utah Court of Appeals declined to hear the case because “the court’s denial of the father’s motion to reconsider was not a final order.”
To read the decision, click on the link below.
On Feb. 14, 1995, the Utah Senate unanimously approved revisions to the state's adoption law. The Utah House later gave its approval, too, establishing the law that is in place today.
On the day the Utah Senate considered the bill, the Salt Lake Tribune's front page carried a story about the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to stop "Baby Richard," adopted four years earlier, from being turned over to his biological father.
Sen. Charles Stewart, R-Provo, who sponsored the bill, hinted at the scope of the revisions in a note he wrote on his "request for legislation." You can see his note by clicking on the link below.
Beltran learned in March 1994 that his girlfriend Denise Allen was pregnant. They ended their relationship not long after and Allen told Beltran she planned to pursue an adoption.
Beltran objected, which he noted on adoption paperwork he filled out at Allen's request.
In August 1994, Allen moved to Utah and had occasional contact with Beltran, repeatedly telling him she planned to pursue adoption.
Beltran filed a paternity action in October in California. A Utah adoption agency contacted him in late October and, in addition to a request for family background information, asked him to sign a waiver form.
Beltran instead sent the agency a letter advising he had filed a paternity claim in California and again expressing opposition to adoption.
Allen gave birth on November 14 and three days later consented to the adoption.
Eight weeks later, Beltran filed a lawsuit against Allen and the adoption agency.
Court findings: The trial court dismissed Beltran’s complaint.
In October 1996, the Utah Court of Appeals upheld the decision, noting the Utah Legislature's firm position regarding what unmarried fathers must do to protect their parental rights.
Dissent: The mother’s temporary move to Utah put the father at a distinct disadvantage in attempting to assert his parental rights, which he “persistently and diligently” pursued.
To read the decision, click on the link below.
After initially denying paternity, Swayne acknowledged in October 1986 he was the father of the child his girlfriend was carrying. He helped pay some doctor bills and his family threw a baby shower. Swayne did not want to marry or live with the woman or her child but arranged for her to move into his mother’s apartment. Meanwhile, he continued to date other women. In March 1987, the girlfriend told Swayne she was considering adoption; he objected. He was present for the child’s birth on June 4, but later declined to sign a document adding his name to the birth certificate. On June 8, the mother signed relinquishment papers, though she later claimed to have done so under duress. The infant was placed with adoptive parents on June 12. Swayne filed a paternity notice on June 15, as well as a federal lawsuit. Court findings: The U.S. District Court for Utah dismissed the suit based on jurisdiction. Swayne then sued the adoption agency in state court, but lost there. In September 1988, the Utah Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision that Swayne was not entitled to custody. In June 1990, the Utah Supreme Court also upheld the decision.
In 1984, after living together for four years, Aguilar’s girlfriend became pregnant. She moved to Utah to live with relatives, who encouraged her to break contact with Aguilar. Aguilar came to Utah in August and learned his girlfriend was considering adoption, which he opposed. The two then made plans to move to Arizona together. Aguilar went to Arizona, got a job and found a place for them to live. On August 24, he traveled to California to retrieve their belongings. The woman gave birth prematurely to a boy on August 25 and two days later relinquished her rights to the infant. Aguilar learned about the adoption on August 28, contacted an attorney and began a paternity action. Court findings: A trial judge refused to vacate the adoption. In March 1986, the Utah Supreme Court reversed that decision, finding the mother had deliberately withheld information from Aguilar, violating his due process rights. But Aguilar was financially unable to continue the legal fight when it was sent back to a lower court. Dissent: The father knew the mother was in Utah long before the birth occurred and had ample time to take steps to protect his rights.
Wells and a girl he dated briefly were high-school sophomores when she became pregnant — something he learned months later, after they split up. The girl informed Wells and his family she intended to place the child for adoption. Wells was told he needed to file a paternity certificate but, concerned he might not be the father, he waited to mail the form until Sept. 23, the day the baby was born. The Utah Department of Health received the form seven days later, after the baby had been placed with adoptive parents. Wells filed a lawsuit. Court findings: A trial court gave Wells custody of the infant, but allowed the child to stay with the adoptive parents while they appealed the decision. In 1984, the Utah Supreme Court overturned the lower court decision, saying the state’s adoption statute met due process requirements of both the state and U.S. constitutions. Wells had ample time to assert his parental rights before the birth and, by not doing so, had waived them, the court said.
Sanchez wanted to marry his girlfriend after she conceived but she declined and said she might place the baby for adoption. The two met with an adoption counselor, but Sanchez still hoped they'd raise the child together.
He later alleged the counselor provided no information on what he needed to do to protect his rights.
The baby was born on Oct. 24 and Sanchez visited mom and child at the hospital.
On Oct. 27, the mother called Sanchez and told him to come to the hospital if he wanted to see the baby one last time. That same day, the mother relinquished her rights.
At the hospital, Sanchez tried but was not allowed to sign the birth certificate. He also tried to file a paternity declaration that afternoon but wasn’t able to until the next day. By then, the baby had been placed with adoptive parents.
Court findings: A district court judge dismissed Sanchez' custody petition.
In 1983, the Utah Supreme Court upheld the ruling against Sanchez, rejecting his argument that Utah’s adoption law was constitutionally flawed because it did not require notice to be given to biological fathers about how to protect parental rights.
"Marriage is the institution established by society for the procreation and rearing of children," the majority said. "Those who conceive children outside the bonds of marriage may be loving parents, but experience teaches that the number of illegitimate children born each year contribute disproportionately to many of the serious social problems with which society must cope."
Dissent: The law was created to extinguish rights of unknown, uncaring and uncommitted unwed fathers — not to encourage a “race” for placement to cut off the rights of fathers who are identified and present but unaware of or hours late in meeting statutory requirements.
Ellis and his girlfriend were engaged to be married in July 1979. The girlfriend, who was pregnant, broke off the engagement two weeks before the wedding.
Unbeknownst to Ellis, she traveled to Utah and, after giving birth on December 15, relinquished the baby four days later. The mother claimed the father was unknown.
When Ellis learned of the birth, he hired an attorney, contacted the adoption agency and filed necessary paternity claims.
Court findings: A trial court dismissed Ellis’ complaint.
In 1980, the Utah Supreme Court reversed the lower court decision and granted Ellis a new hearing. It said Ellis was not “afforded a reasonable opportunity" to comply with Utah's adoption statute.
In what's now referred to as the "impossibility exception," the court said:
"Situations may arise when it is impossible for the father to file the required notice of paternity prior to the statutory bar, through no fault of his own.”
No further information about the case could be located.
In 1975, Utah lawmakers amended the state's adoption statute to require unwed fathers to file a notice of paternity with the health department.
Thomas found himself back in court again in 1969. He and his wife divorced in 1963 but remained together. Three days after the mother gave birth to a daughter at Holy Cross Hospital, a social worker entered the nursery and took custody of the infant because she “had been or was being ill treated.”
A custody petition noted the parents were unmarried. It also said the mother had talked about placing the child and exhibited severe emotional and psychological problems that made her an unfit parent.
Thomas contested the petition and sought custody of his daughter in the event the mother’s rights were terminated.
Court findings: A juvenile court judge ruled in 1969 that, as an unmarried man, Thomas had no legal right to the child. The judge also noted that the couple’s two sons had been removed from their home in 1965. The judge terminated the mother’s rights and placed the child in state custody for adoption.
In 1970, the Utah Supreme Court reversed the decision and sent it back to the lower court, noting it was for the first time confronting whether an unmarried father has any legal rights. The court said a putative father of an illegitimate child is entitled to “its custody and control as against all but the mother, if he is competent to care for and suitable to take charge of the child and if it appears that the best interest of the child will be thereby secured.”
Dissent: The court was contradicting itself given its previous ruling — which also involved Thomas — that an “illegitimate father is not a parent within the meaning of the law.”
To read the decision, click the link below.
Thomas, described in court documents as a “colored” man, and his Caucasian girlfriend began living together in Ogden after she became pregnant. Her parents, who lived in Idaho, believed marriage wasn’t a “satisfactory solution to the problem” and persuaded their daughter to leave Thomas. An adoption agency arranged for the woman to live in a foster home in Brigham City, where she stayed until giving birth in April.
She and Thomas resumed their relationship, and in early June the couple demanded the agency return their child, which it refused to do. That same month, the couple were married in Idaho; at the time, Utah law prohibited interracial marriages. Thomas, however, was still married to another woman.
The couple went to court, alleging the mother had been pressured to place the child, that Thomas’ rights were violated because the adoption occurred without his consent and that Utah’s miscegenation statute was unconstitutional.
Court findings: A trial court found that the child was illegitimate and thus the father’s consent was not required.
In 1961, the Utah Supreme Court upheld the decision, noting that because Thomas had not yet divorced his first wife, the couple’s Idaho marriage was void.
Under the law, the court said, a putative father is not recognized “at all, except that [the state] will make him pay for the child’s maintenance if it can find out who he is.”
To read the decision, click on the link below.