UTAH (ABC4) – Under Utah’s law, a child aged six months or less can be adopted without the legal consent of an unmarried biological father unless the man has already initiated a petition to establish paternity prior to the adoption placement.
Many women come to Utah to have their babies because of this loophole. Back in 2014 over a dozen men saw their biological children placed for adoption in Utah without their consent. They responded by suing Utah in federal court, claiming its tangled network of rules unconstitutionally strip them of their parental rights.
For Utah resident Tristan Hamilton, this is an ongoing reality for him. “I was living with my girlfriend at the time when she left in the middle of the night with our child,” said Hamilton. “Within days she had filed for the adoption of our child without my knowledge.”
Steps are being taken to fix these loopholes. In April 2014, former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill requiring birth mothers to live in Utah for at least 90 days or file information with the court about the birth father.
Hamilton and his girlfriend are both residents of Utah which can make the adoption process quick. “I have no information on my child because of HIPAA laws,” said Hamilton. “I’ve tried reaching out to attorneys, but they say there’s only a 40% chance I can get them back.”
Many lawyers in Utah are now specializing in paternity laws of Utah. In all 50 states, both parents must provide formal consent for the adoption to be considered legal. According to one law offices website “if you suspect that a woman may be planning on putting your child up for adoption then you should take the immediate steps to establish legal paternity.”
These may include
- Registering with the Putative Father Registry
- Providing financial support during the pregnancy and apply for child support services
- Legally establishing paternity in relation to the child
- Continually reaching out to adoption attorneys or agencies
Unfortunately for Hamilton, he had no idea his child was going to be put up for adoption. “Even if I find an attorney willing to help me, they usually cost around $30,000,” said Hamilton.
According to American Adoptions, many women choose to not notify the father because of no support or abuse. In these cases, American Adoptions works with the mother to help place the baby for adoption without the birth father’s consent. Some women may lie about their circumstances in order to not have the father notified.
Establishing paternity is essential so fathers have the same rights and responsibilities as any other father, regardless of their marital status. Under Utah state law, if a child is born to parents who are married, the husband is the child’s biological father. On the other hand, if parents are not married, Utah makes no presumption as to the child’s father.
Many fathers are not aware of the steps it takes to establish paternity. By the time they learn of the adoption of the child it is too late to do anything.
Hamilton is still currently trying to find information on the whereabouts of his child as well as seeking to have his parental rights restored as the father of the child.