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Fathers deserve equal rights under Utah adoption law
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Fathers are parents, too. Utah adoption law does not recognize that fact, and it should be changed to reflect reality and not to sanction only two-parent, heterosexual homes as "in the best interest" of children.

In Utah parental rights are awarded to unwed, biological fathers by the state only if they meet a lot of paperwork requirements prescribed by Utah law. But single fathers have an inherent right to be parents, the same as women, and are fully capable of providing loving, stable homes to their children.

Utah adoption law favors mothers and encourages adoption by heterosexual couples while putting nearly insurmountable obstacles in the way of fathers — married to the mother or not — who want to raise their own children. Many unwed mothers, and even some married mothers who want to place a child for adoption without messy interference from the father, move to Utah specifically to take advantage of Utah's discriminatory law.

Utah adoption law includes four steps that biological fathers must take in order to intervene before the birth mother places the child for adoption:

File a paternity petition in court; file a sworn affidavit in court stating he is able and willing to have full custody of the child, detailing child care plans and agreeing to a court order of support and payment of pregnancy and birth-related expenses; file a notice of commencement of a paternity action with the state vital statistics registrar; show proof he offered to pay or did pay the pregnancy and birth-related expenses, unless he was unaware of the pregnancy before the birth,

All the burden of reading, interpreting and abiding by this arcane law sits on the father. If a woman is determined to place her baby for adoption, it's relatively easy for her to do so in Utah without the father's consent or even knowledge.

In the most recent case, an unmarried Utah father whose son was placed for adoption at birth in 2010 without his knowledge or consent has filed a $130 million federal lawsuit against the biological mother, adoption agency, adoptive parents and attorneys alleging they conspired in an "illegal deceit-ridden infant adoption."

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Jake Strickland — who has been fighting for his son since he learned of the adoption — claims the defendants acted in a "clandestine" manner and "essentially kidnapped" his son. The suit alleges racketeering, human trafficking and various kinds of fraud in a conspiracy to deprive Strickland of his child.

Now the child's fate will be decided by courts, after he has spent nearly four years with adoptive parents. A little girl went to live with a father she hardly knew earlier this year after courts recognized his right to raise his daughter.

To avoid such trauma to children, Utah should change the law to recognize that fathers, as well as mothers, have a right to care for their children.

Utah adoption law discriminates
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