Colby Nielsen is the newest example of how Utah State adoption laws work against unmarried biological fathers. Last week, his newborn daughter Kaylee was forcibly removed from his care to satisfy an adoption agreement between the birth mother and an adoptive couple, which Nielsen claims he was against from the beginning.
Nielsen states that his ex-girlfriend, 19, knew he wanted to take custody of their daughter and yet gave the child up for private adoption anyway — which, based on Utah adoption statutes, is completely legal.
The adoptive couple that took Kaylee has now agreed to return the child to her birth mother, claiming they have been the recipients of hate mail and had believed both biological parents were in full support of the adoption.
This ordeal is not over, as Nielsen is working with his attorney to file the appropriate documents with the courts to validate his paternity and ensure his daughter won’t be taken again. To date, he says he still has not had contact with Kaylee.
While paternity and adoption laws vary by state, all states require both biological parents to give consent before their child can be adopted. In 12 states (including Utah), however, filing to get on a putative father registry — which requires a birth father to file a notice of paternity within the first 30 days of the child’s birth — is the only way an unmarried dad will even get the rights to be notified of court proceedings regarding the child, petitions for adoption and actions to terminate parental rights, making unwed dads especially vulnerable to loopholes in these laws. If a dad doesn’t file to get onto the registry, the birth mother may claim the father is “unknown,” leaving his name off the baby’s birth certificate, and give little or no information to the biological father before relinquishing their child for adoption, therefore avoiding the need for paternal consent.
Unless men are well versed in state law, they may not realize this legality and fail to satisfy the courts when attempting to prevent the adoption of their child.
This legislation can make situations like Nielsen’s tricky, especially when a birth mother decides to give the child up for adoption without notifying the birth father. It turns out that misleading or even lying to the birth father about the child is not legal grounds to invalidate an adoption.
What this difficult ordeal teaches us is the need for parents to be fully aware of their parental rights and the laws supporting (or not) those rights in their state. Parents like Nielsen may not realize that they have to meet specific requirements in order to prove and maintain paternity, which can lead to unnecessary harm to both the biological and adoptive parents, as well as the child.
The language in state laws can be difficult to decipher, and that is why it may be prudent for parents to consult with an attorney to understand their legal options so situations like Nielsen’s do not happen to them.