December 24, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The big picture in the case of the forced adoption of M.C.’s twin sons is that the Colorado Supreme Court, like the trial court, promotes fraud on the part of a mother when it comes to terminating the parental rights of a father. It also promotes wrongdoing by the adoptive parents. The smaller picture is the avidness with which it does so.
Recall that the mother, J.Z., lied to M.C., telling him she had had a miscarriage. She also lied to the adoption agency by claiming she didn’t know the identity or whereabouts of the father. And she lied in court about the same thing. All of that is admitted by the various courts that have heard this case.
And of course, early on in the proceedings, the adoptive parents knew that the biological father was asserting his rights. By February of 2013, they knew he was claiming to be the biological father and by May they knew he was. They could have simply handed the children over to him at that time and gone on to adopt a child who had no fit loving parents. But instead they opted for continued litigation.
That was no accident. As the Court of Appeals mentioned, M.C. believed that their behavior was simply a ploy to buy time in the hopes that, the longer the children were with them, the greater would be their chances of gaining final custody of them. That was in fact their plan and, thanks to the trial court and the Supreme Court, it worked. M.C. was right.
Indeed, between the court order establishing M.C. as the father June of 2013 and the termination of his parental rights in October, the adoptive parents frankly violated the terms of the court’s temporary order. According to that order, M.C. was to be eased back into the children’s lives in preparation for establishing him as their custodial parent. Specific terms for doing so were included in the order, but the adoptive parents thwarted M.C.’s parenting time at every turn. He ended up seeing them about half the time ordered by the court.
In short, the wrongdoing by the J.Z. and that of the adoptive parents are smiled on by the trial court and the Supreme Court. Indeed, the Supreme Court never so much as mentions the adoptive parents’ violations of the trial court’s order.
Such is the big picture. According to the highest court in the State of Colorado, getting and keeping possession of a child who’s not yours can be accomplished by pretty much any means, including those that violate laws and court orders. Doing so can, under the right circumstances, result in your eventually getting custody of the child. If the actual parent makes a single misstep, no matter how minor, in attempting to get his/her child back from you, then the parent’s rights will be terminated and the child will be yours.
(As yet undecided is whether a stranger can simply snatch a child off the street and, after bonding with it over a period of months or years, terminate the biological parent’s rights. Doubtless the Court will rule on that when the opportunity arises.)
Now for the smaller picture – the illogical, unsupported and unsupportable eagerness with which the trial court and the Supreme Court went about terminating M.C.’s parental rights.
The Colorado statute on termination of parental rights provides that a person’s parental rights may be terminated if he/she has failed to pursue a substantial relationship with the child or has failed to take parental responsibility for it. (As I mentioned yesterday, there are other grounds for termination, but those are the two that apply to M.C.’s case.)
Oddly, the trial court found that M.C. failed on both counts. As to M.C.’s efforts to form real, substantial bonds with his boys, that finding is simply wrong. Despite living in Iowa and having to travel hundreds of miles to see his children regularly, at considerable expense of time and money, M.C. did so repeatedly. All courts admit this and, in view of the fact that that basis for terminating M.C.’s rights was entirely unsupportable, the matter appears to have simply been dropped. The Supreme Court makes no mention of it in its decision.
And what of M.C.’s efforts to take parental responsibility for his children? No one doubts his efforts to do so. Once he learned that J.Z. had lied to him and that he had two sons in western Colorado, he immediately hired a local attorney, filed the necessary pleadings, underwent genetic testing and was found to be their dad.
He then got a court order of visitation that he avidly complied with to the extent the adoptive parents would allow. At considerable expense, he visited his boys as often as the order permitted. The Supreme Court recounted his activities thus:
M.C.’s first visit with the children occurred on June 29, 2013, and he had approximately twenty visits with them between June and October. Because M.C. continued to live in Iowa, he spent money on travel and lodging when he visited. He also provided the twins with food, gifts, and clothing during these visits. He testified that he spent between $1,800 and $2,500 a month to travel to see the children and to provide for them during his visits.
Now, to many of us, M.C.’s behavior looks very much like a father who’s doing his utmost not only to establish meaningful relationships with his infant sons, but to prove to all and sundry that he’s a responsible dad. Face it, from the end of June to the beginning of October when the final hearing was held, is a little over 90 days. That means he travelled to and from Iowa to Grand Junction, CO every 4 – 5 days, on average, and spent over $2,000 per month in the process. In my book, that’s behavior above and beyond the call of duty.
Beyond doubt, M.C. was doing all he could to demonstrate his bona fides as a parent. Part of that process was establishing the best relationships he could with his sons, preparatory for becoming their everyday dad. How could any court not see the obvious?
It wasn’t easy, but the Supreme Court was equal to the task.
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