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The birth mother proceeded to contact two adoption agencies, the Adoption Center of Choice in Utah and Adoption Options in Colorado.
In mid-September 2010, the Colorado agency contacted Nevares and told him it was working with the birth mother. Nevares visited that agency twice and, during one visit, was given an "Anticipated Expedited Relinquishment Reply" form to fill out. He did so while again expressing his desire to take custody of and parent the child.
Unbeknownst to Nevares, the birth mother, then 16, decided to work with the Utah agency instead. She arrived in Utah two days before giving birth on Sept. 29, 2010, to a boy who was placed for adoption by the Utah agency a day later.
The teen’s mother contacted Nevares on Oct. 6, 2010, and, without disclosing the location, informed him of the birth and adoption. She also sent a photo of the infant in a text message with the comment, "sorry for your loss," according to Nevares.
A week later, after Nevares’ mother threatened legal action to force the birth mother’s family to disclose details about the baby’s birth, the Adoption Center of Choice called and left a message at the Nevares home. Nevares’ mother was able to trace the agency, via the telephone number, to Utah.
Nevares hired a Utah attorney and, on Oct. 18, 2010, filed a paternity petition in Utah County’s 4th District Court seeking to intervene in the adoption proceeding.
Dueling decisions » Fourth District Judge Claudia Laycock ruled in August 2011 that Nevares had not complied with Utah law and rejected his attempt to intervene in the adoption.
Months later, Laycock reversed that decision and ruled for Nevares, finding that the form provided to him by the Colorado agency was inadequate because it did not properly advise him of legal requirements and deadlines he needed to meet to protect his rights in that state — a first step to being allowed to intervene in Utah.
At that November hearing, the judge declared Nevares to be the child’s biological father and granted his request to intervene in the adoption proceeding. Laycock also ordered the Adoption Center of Choice to provide Nevares with future hearing notices.
But the judge dismissed his attempt to challenge the section of Utah’s adoption law that bars unmarried fathers from using fraud by a birth mother as a defense for inaction, noting that Nevares "has not shown that the birth mother or [Adoption Center of Choice] had any duty to disclose that the birth mother came to Utah to give birth and to place her child for adoption."
The legal wrangling, however, was far from over.
In July 2012, after the Adoption Center of Choice contested that ruling, Laycock came to yet another conclusion.
This time, the judge found Nevares had not complied with Colorado law and thus was barred from intervening in Utah. While the form he was given was defective, the judge ruled that, under other provisions of Colorado law, Nevares nevertheless should have voluntarily taken legal steps to acknowledge his paternity and protect his parental rights.
That duty is independent of noticing requirements, Laycock said, and there is no obligation on the part of the mother or any other party to notify the unwed father of what he needs to do to protect his rights.
Like Utah law, Colorado’s Uniform Parentage Act burdens natural fathers to "independently search out and complete the requirements to establish paternity," Laycock ruled.
Understanding the law was apparently a challenge even for the judge, who noted her initial interpretation of the notice requirements as "necessary first steps to a father’s establishment of parental rights was [an] error on this court’s part."
The notice requirement applies only when a birth mother pursues an "expedited" hearing to relinquish her rights and place a child for adoption, the judge said. In this case, the mother did not do that.
‘Mixed signals’ » Nevares appealed Laycock’s ruling to the Utah Court of Appeals in August 2012, arguing that he acted properly under Colorado law to protect his rights and that Utah’s imposition of additional requirements violates his due-process rights.
The wins and losses "send a lot of mixed signals to me," said Nevares, now 23, in a telephone interview. "At points it is hopeful, and at points it’s not hopeful. If I get custody [of my son], I’ll be really, really happy. And if I don’t, at least my son will know how hard I fought for him to be a part of my life."Next Page >
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