Current Utah law allows biological fathers to be given almost no notice that their child may be up for adoption in the state. But a bill this session would change the practice to give official notification to the fathers so they can file to challenge an adoption. For bill sponsor Rep. Christine Watkins, D-Price, the bill would help stop the kind of lawsuits Utah has recently faced from out-of-state fathers.
“Because there is such a short time for a father to register his rights as a biological father—and we’ve had several lawsuits dealing with this—what this bill does is it modifies the procedures [a father] has to follow.” City Weekly reported on Utah’s adoption laws in the 2010 piece “Some Call it Kidnapping” pointing out how current law only gives fathers a 20-day notice to legally challenge an adoption. “You blink and you’re done,” Watkins says of the timeframe.
The “notice” by law also can so be vague as to not even have to require a mother to mention adoption in Utah, but rather allows mothers to simply leave notice that they will reside—even temporarily—in Utah.
As CW reported in 2010, one father received a note from the mother of his child that simply read: “I’ll be in Arizona with my family for the holidays and will stay on in Utah for awhile.” Under Utah’s “qualifying circumstances,” this note was all that was needed for the adoption process to begin, and by the time the biological father learned that she had given birth in Utah, the 20-day window had elapsed.
Watkins’ House Bill 308 would require unwed fathers to be issued an official notification of the mother’s intention to give the child up for adoption in Utah. Upon receipt of the notification, the father would then have 30 days to assert his rights as a parent and petition the court to prove that the father can be a fit and responsible parent.
The bill, Watkins says, would also give the mothers more time after the birth of the child to decide if they want to revoke the adoption and keep custody of the child. “We’re going to allow a mother 30 days with which to change her mind if she finds out the dad wants to be the father and maybe she’s calmed down, she can revoke her adoption of that child,” Watkins says. Watkins says her bill is expected to be heard in a House Health and Human Services Committee early next week.
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