Once again the Utah Supreme Court has approved the theft of a father’s child in the guise of adoption. Here’s the court’s opinion.
I’ve reported on this case before, but now it’s final. John Wyatt will never see his daughter. He will never see her because little Emily’s mother decided he shouldn’t. Secretly working hand-in-glove with a notorious Utah adoption lawyer and an adoption agency, she signed away her rights and the child was spirited out of state before Wyatt got wind of where his newborn child was.
That all happened in Virginia where Wyatt and his girlfriend Colleen Fahland lived when they were together and where little Emily was conceived. They never married, but Wyatt told Fahland from the very first that he wanted her to carry the child to term and the two of them to raise it.
And Fahland agreed. But privately she was making other plans. At some point, she began contacting adoption agencies. How she hit on one in Utah is anyone’s guess, but however she did it, it was a stroke of genius. That’s because no state in the nation goes to such lengths to deny an unmarried father his parental rights when someone wants to adopt his child.
Wyatt had no idea Fahland had backed out on their agreement to keep and raise the child. But shortly before her due date, Fahland started seeming very distant. She stopped answering his calls and Wyatt was unable to find her at all as the day drew near. She refused to tell him which hospital she was going to for her delivery, and Wyatt, desperate to find out and sensing something was amiss, called every hospital in the area.
Even when he found the correct one, apparently, the hospital personnel lied to him saying no one by the name of Colleen Fahland had been admitted there. By then Wyatt was too late. She and little Emily had already checked out for an appointment at a nearby hotel room with the adoption attorney from Utah, a representative of the agency and the adoptive parents.
Two days later, all but Fahland were winging their way to Utah and Wyatt was still wondering where his child was. He went immediately to a Virginia lawyer and five days later filed his suit asserting his paternity in Virginia court. There he was adjudicated the father of the child and given custodial rights. And that, as they say, was worth the paper it was written on.
John Wyatt’s child was in Utah in the possession of adoptive parents, and when that happens to an unmarried father, he can kiss his child goodbye – or could if he could get near her.
Just to be clear about what happened, Colleen Fahland lied to John Wyatt about keeping and raising the baby. Everything she did she did in secret for the sole purpose of denying Wyatt’s child to him. The adoption agency, the adoption lawyer, the adoptive parents and various Utah courts all abetted her lies, her secrecy and her desire to cut a fit father out of the life of his child forever. All gave their stamp of approval to her exercise of complete control over John Wyatt’s supposed parental rights.
The legal rationale, as expressed by the trial court and the Utah Supreme Court is quite straightforward. (The Supreme Court’s opinion is 53 pages long, but 95% of that deals with an issue that wasn’t even raised at the trial level, leaving one to wonder why they’re dealing with it at all, but there it is.) The part of the opinion that denies Wyatt his child runs to a page and a half.
The law in Utah is perfectly clear.
[P]rior to the mother”s consent to adoption, the father must have “fully complied with the requirements to establish parental rights in the child, and to preserve the right to notice of a proceeding in connection with the adoption of the child,’ of the state where the child was conceived or the last state where he knew that the mother resided.
In other words, John Wyatt, who knew nothing about Fahland’s intention to place the child for adoption, had to have gone to court filed a paternity action, filed a form with the state’s putative father registry, gotten a DNA test proving his paternity of a child not yet born and received a court order establishing his paternity of the child. Failure to do all those things, while ignorant of Fahland’s intentions, meant that in Utah, he had no right to contest the adoption of his child.
Never mind that his failure to do those things was brought about solely by Fahland’s fraud. Never mind that the man had no reason to know Utah adoption law and no reason to think it had anything to do with him or his child. Never mind that the Utah statute is an open invitation to theft of children by mothers who, for their own reasons, have decided the father of their child should be removed from its life.
And of course never mind the fact that the Utah statute treats unmarried fathers differently from unmarried mothers and married fathers.
And never mind the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of children throughout this country who actually need adopting, but who won’t get adoptive parents. They won’t get them because there are too few adoptive parents (about 125,000 per year) and too many children without parents (about 425,000 at any given time). Little Emily had a fit father who was eager to be her dad, but he can’t be because Colleen Fahland so decreed. In so doing, she and the rest of her enablers denied loving adoptive parents to one of those 425,000 children.
Oh, and never mind the fact that Colleen Fahland later changed her mind and now regrets what she did.
No, in Utah, all of that stands aside for the mother’s power to decide a father’s rights and for the power of the adoption industry in that state.