Utah Governor Signs Adoption Bill

by Norris Law Group on April 14, 2014

GaryHerbert-headshot (1)The Associated Press reported on April 2, 2014 that Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill on April 1 prohibiting single mothers from traveling to Utah to put their children up for adoption without first notifying their children’s fathers.

Gov. Herbert signed the bill just weeks after a Utah Supreme Court ruling sided with a Pennsylvania father challenging the Utah Adoption Act as unconstitutional after his ex-girlfriend gave up their baby to a Utah adoption agency without notifying him, which, at the time, was allowed under Utah state law.

Utah State Senator Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross), who sponsored the new bill, says that the changes to the law will allow responsible fathers to challenge Utah adoptions and afford them the chance to maintain a relationship with their children: “We’re trying to throw a speed bump into that process…This will allow judges to know if a father has reached out and grabbed his rights…It’s kind of a reaction to this perception that we’ve become a magnet state for fraudulent adoptions.”

Weiler was likely referring to a lawsuit involving 12 fathers challenging Utah’s previous law which allowed their girlfriends to come to Utah and put their children up for adoption without their knowledge. As of this writing, this case remains pending in federal court.

This bill is viewed as only a partial fix to Utah’s previous adoption laws. The new law nullifies portions of existing lawsuits that seek to overturn the Utah’s adoption rules, but does permit financial awards to the affected fathers, who aren’t seeking custody.

The new law only applies to unwed mothers (married women are required to tell the fathers if they put up a child for adoption in Utah). It also requires unwed mothers to reside in Utah for at least 90 days or provide the Utah Family Court information about the birth father in cases involving babies younger than 6 months. The new bill does not, however, penalize mothers who fail to provide this information. But it does require a judge to ask the pertinent questions.

The bill does not allow a non-custodial father to stop an adoption, but does afford him the opportunity to challenge the adoption in court so a judge may rule on it. Fathers may also make an agreement with an adoptive family to maintain a relationship with his child. While fathers now have the right to be notified, courts consider whether domestic violence has occurred between the parents.

Wes Hutchins, the attorney representing the dozen fathers, labeled the measure “a step in the right direction,” but expressed concern that it will be hard to enforce. The new law takes effect May 13.

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 and family law. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: