It seems incredible, but Utah laws governing adoption actually invite and maybe even encourage fraud and the undermining of parental rights.
It's hard to believe because Utah is a state with a widespread reputation for protecting families and children. But the Beehive State attracts mothers trying to circumvent the natural rights of fathers and agencies that encourage such behavior in order to make money on adoptions.
The recent case of Terry Achane and his 2-year-old daughter is a good example of what is seriously wrong with Utah law and why the Legislature should change it quickly.
While Achane was deployed with the military, his wife moved to Utah so she could put their baby up for adoption without his knowledge. A Utah couple, initially unmindful of the truth, adopted the baby girl. It took many months of legal wrangling and a 4th District Court decision in which the judge scolded the agency and the adoptive parents to reunite Achane and his daughter.
By that time, the toddler and the adoptive family had bonded, and restoring the girl to her father was hard on everybody. But the decision was the right one.
Achane's now ex-wife knew that she had a better chance of getting away with depriving her husband of his daughter in Utah than any other state. State law puts all responsibility on fathers to prevent fraud and gives them little chance of reclaiming their parental rights, even when they have been hoodwinked by their wives and adoption agencies.
It's apparent that the writers of the law favor two-parent adoptive families over biological fathers who are caring and committed, but may be single. This is absurd.
Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, is proposing SB183 to change this unfair and discriminatory law. The bill would allow for penalties against adoption agencies that encourage mothers to lie to their spouses or partners or otherwise make fraudulent representations in connection with an adoption.
It rightly would direct courts to give more weight to due-process rights of a victimized parent over bonding to an adoptive family when an adoption is based on fraud.
Utah legislators usually make a case for preserving parental rights in state laws and policies. Biological fathers are parents, too, and their rights are as important as a mother's or as those of a couple seeking to adopt.
This outdated law must be changed. If it isn't, Utah will remain the go-to state for people who want to use lies and fraudulent behavior to cut fathers out of their children's lives and make money in the process.