While much of the legal discussion in Utah is currently about marriage (and divorce) in same-sex partnerships, another branch of the family is seeing a legal battle in the state. Biological fathers of children placed for adoption in Utah without their consent are suing the state in federal court, claiming their constitutional rights have been violated. Family attorneys in Salt Lake City cite the complex, tangled network of adoption statutes in Utah as a source of confusion, and the lawsuit itself describes the current adoption system as a “confusing labyrinth of virtually incomprehensible legal mandates and impossible deadlines.”
Twelve men behind the suit filed with the U.S. district court in Salt Lake are arguing that the adoption standards have resulted in “unconstitutional remove of children from their biological families, essentially resulting in their kidnapping and highly unethical displacement into adoptive homes without the knowledge and consent of their biological fathers.” While family attorneys in Salt Lake City may find some of the lawsuits language incendiary, the laws themselves are somewhat problematic. 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. What’s more, Utah’s adoption statute includes “fraud immunity laws” which allow unwed mothers the ability to put their newborns up for adoption without paternal consent and few, if any, questions asked. One of the family attorneys in Salt Lake City behind the suit estimates that more than 300 men have been affected by this law, and a class-action certification for the suit may be in the works.
Current Utah adoption laws have enabled biological mothers and adoption agencies to exploit the ease with which a new mother can give a newborn for adoption, the suit contend, while simultaneously glossing over the required consideration of the “rights and interests of all parties.” All parties include the biological fathers, the lawsuit adds. Labeling the effects of the law as “legalized fraud and kidnapping,” the implications of the lawsuit’s language is clear to family attorneys in Salt Lake City: this is criminal. Whether a judge will see it that way is another question.
Of the twelve biological children referenced in the lawsuit, six boys and six girls, all were born in Utah between June 2006 and November 2012. None of the men filling suit were married to the mothers of their biological children. Each tried to stop his child from being adopted with varying levels of success. Two were able to prove paternity in time to avoid the adoption, and one had his child’s adoption overturned by the Utah Supreme Court. Each wants the law to change, to avoid violation of future fathers’ rights to due process and equal protection. Whether Utah will continue to be a “stop and drop” state, or whether it will see improved paternal rights in the future remains to be seen.
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If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a child custody case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.
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Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City, Utah
|City of Salt Lake City|
“The Crossroads of the West”
|Named for||Great Salt Lake|
|• Type||Strong Mayor–council|
|• Mayor||Erin Mendenhall (D)|
|• City||110.81 sq mi (286.99 km2)|
|• Land||110.34 sq mi (285.77 km2)|
|• Water||0.47 sq mi (1.22 km2)|
||4,327 ft (1,288 m)|
|• Rank||122nd in the United States
1st in Utah
|• Density||1,797.52/sq mi (701.84/km2)|
| • Urban
||1,021,243 (US: 42nd)|
| • Metro
||1,257,936 (US: 47th)|
| • CSA
||2,606,548 (US: 22nd)|
|Time zone||UTC−7 (Mountain)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−6|
|Area codes||801, 385|
|GNIS feature ID||1454997|
|Major airport||Salt Lake City International Airport|
|Website||Salt Lake City Government|
Salt Lake City (often shortened to Salt Lake and abbreviated as SLC) is the capital and most populous city of Utah, as well as the seat of Salt Lake County, the most populous county in Utah. With a population of 199,723 in 2020, the city is the core of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, which had a population of 1,257,936 at the 2020 census. Salt Lake City is further situated within a larger metropolis known as the Salt Lake City–Ogden–Provo Combined Statistical Area, a corridor of contiguous urban and suburban development stretched along a 120-mile (190 km) segment of the Wasatch Front, comprising a population of 2,606,548 (as of 2018 estimates), making it the 22nd largest in the nation. It is also the central core of the larger of only two major urban areas located within the Great Basin (the other being Reno, Nevada).
Salt Lake City was founded July 24, 1847, by early pioneer settlers, led by Brigham Young, who were seeking to escape persecution they had experienced while living farther east. The Mormon pioneers, as they would come to be known, entered a semi-arid valley and immediately began planning and building an extensive irrigation network which could feed the population and foster future growth. Salt Lake City’s street grid system is based on a standard compass grid plan, with the southeast corner of Temple Square (the area containing the Salt Lake Temple in downtown Salt Lake City) serving as the origin of the Salt Lake meridian. Owing to its proximity to the Great Salt Lake, the city was originally named Great Salt Lake City. In 1868, the word “Great” was dropped from the city’s name.
Immigration of international members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, mining booms, and the construction of the first transcontinental railroad initially brought economic growth, and the city was nicknamed “The Crossroads of the West”. It was traversed by the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway, in 1913. Two major cross-country freeways, I-15 and I-80, now intersect in the city. The city also has a belt route, I-215.
Salt Lake City has developed a strong tourist industry based primarily on skiing and outdoor recreation. It hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. It is known for its politically progressive and diverse culture, which stands at contrast with the rest of the state’s conservative leanings. It is home to a significant LGBT community and hosts the annual Utah Pride Festival. It is the industrial banking center of the United States. Salt Lake City and the surrounding area are also the location of several institutions of higher education including the state’s flagship research school, the University of Utah. Sustained drought in Utah has more recently strained Salt Lake City’s water security and caused the Great Salt Lake level drop to record low levels, and impacting the state’s economy, of which the Wasatch Front area anchored by Salt Lake City constitutes 80%.