Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Utah's Supreme Court hears forum shopping adoption case

Adoption law varies from state to state to such a degree that prospective mothers will sometimes engage in forum shopping to assure their child is adopted even if it is against the wishes of the child's father. Over the last year, Utah has continued to be in the spotlight due to an interesting case involving competing state laws on adoption.

Utah's Supreme Court is weighing in on an adoption case involving an out of state mother having her child in Utah while attempting to conceal the birth and adoption from the biological father. The case involves a now 21 year old man and the now 17 year old mother of his child. At the time of the pregnancy the man was 18 and girl was 14, though she allegedly lied about her age, which is why the man claims he terminated their relationship. The subsequent criminal case ended with the man being charged with indecent exposure. The charge and how the two states handle the parental rights of children born from sexual assaults are the central issues of the case.

Utah's statute does not require a notice of adoption be sent when there has been a sexual offense of any level. Pennsylvania's law, on the other hand, specifically mentions rape as the sex crime which does away with any notice of adoption requirements. In one state, the father may have a chance at raising the child, while in the other it's possible he will not gain custody. This is a perfect example of the benefits and drawbacks of forum shopping. Situations such as this, and dozens of others have prompted Utah's lawmakers to review just how the state's adoption system operates and if it's doing more harm than good.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah high court weighs appeal in Pennsylvania man's adoption case," Brooke Adams , March 4, 2014

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