A Change in Utah’s Adoption Law (Part 3 of 5)

by Norris Law Group on March 12, 2014

15099719_sThe previous two installments of this five-part series introduce the case of
In re Baby B, in which a man who conceived a child with a woman in Colorado was not made aware that the woman put the child up for adoption in Utah.

Our previous post brought in the four factors which the state of Utah considers when determining whether the father’s consent is necessary for a Utah adoption (if he is unaware of these factors), which include:

(i) The child or the child’s mother resided, on a permanent or temporary basis in the state;

(ii) The mother intended to give birth to the child in the state;

(iii) The child was born in the state; or

(iv)  The mother intended to execute a consent to adoption or relinquishment of the child for adoption

1. In the state; or

2. Under the laws of the state.

 The district court determined that the father had knowledge of qualifying circumstances two through four. However, the Utah Supreme Court reversed this finding. The logic behind the district court’s finding was the statements listed in the father’s filing for paternity in Colorado. These statements included: a “serious and founded concerns about the possibility that [the mother] would flee to Utah…to proceed with an adoption.” He drew this belief from inferences that the mother wanted to give the baby up for adoption, was raised in a Mormon family, and had relatives in Utah. The Utah Supreme Court found that these statements were a belief, rather than knowledge as required by the statute. The Court emphasized a difference between a belief and knowledge as two “distinct states of mind.” Furthermore, that an “unmarried biological father’s consent is required where he ‘did not know, and through the exercise of reasonable diligence could not have known’ that a ‘qualifying circumstance’ existed.” In re Baby B, ¶54. The Court further explained that for the father has to have more than a “mere suspicion or belief” in order to have knowledge of one of the qualifying circumstances. Id. at ¶57. The ultimate question of the Act as characterized by the Court is “whether the father knew or could have known of a qualifying circumstance.” Id. at ¶ 64.

This ruling by the Supreme Court does not relieve biological fathers from compliance with the statute. However, it gives a little more leeway. If there is no way the father could have known that the child was being given up for adoption in Utah, the trigger for strict compliance continues until “just before the time the mother executed a consent or relinquishment”¶ 79. The statutory trigger is proof that the father knew or could have known one of the qualifying circumstances. ¶ 79.

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of divorce. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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