Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Father fights adoption of son and state's discriminatory system

When a parent is either unable or unwilling to care for a child there are a number of avenues available to that person. One of the most widely used and well known options is placing the child for adoption. While adoption can be used in a multitude of situations, one of the more common is when a parent or parents relinquish their legal rights to the child and entrust the child to another person or couple.

An expecting father did everything he thought he was supposed to when he learned he was going to be a father. The man hired an attorney, filed a notice with the court, and a petition for paternity all before his child was born. He missed filing the sworn affidavit required by law in cases involving unwed biological fathers. Because of the mistake the man's former girlfriend was able place the child for adoption three days after leaving the hospital. The father has been fighting the adoption and requesting custody ever since. The current Utah Supreme Court case comes from an appeal of the District Court ruling against the man for his failure to file the affidavit. The affidavit is a document unique to unwed biological fathers and requires them to detail their support and child care plans.

The attorney for the father is seeking to have the provision of the law which requires the affidavit ruled unconstitutional. The father argues that the requirement treats parties differently based on gender. It will be up to the justices to decided if there is a compelling enough reason to allow for such treatment or if the provision is unconstitutional.

The process for adoption can be complex and full of pitfalls for both the biological parents and the adoptive parents. It is important that all parties explore their legal rights and obligations carefully before beginning the process and during its implementation. Otherwise, the result may be the heartbreak of being separated from a loved child.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune "Utah adoption law provision discriminates against men, attorney claims" Brooke Adams June 04, 2013

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