Recently, a Colorado judge made an important decision in an adoption and “custody” case (allocation of parental responsibilities) which spanned Utah, Colorado and their respective trial and appellate courts for the past nine years.
Rob Manzanares, the biological father, had always asserted his wish to raise his daughter and his objection to her being adopted. Despite his position, the biological mother subverted him and allowed the child to be adopted by her brother and sister-in-law in Utah. Mother misled the courts and the father as to father’s knowledge of the birth and adoption proceedings. What resulted was father’s search for a just result in the courts and a difficult decision about moving forward in the child’s best interests.
The appellate courts made it clear in their decisions that the actions of the mother served to deliberately prevent father from being able to raise his daughter and were in furtherance of her goal to have her daughter adopted by maternal relatives.
What is remarkable about the case is that the law is very clear about the adoption process. Both parents must be notified and either consent to the adoption or have their parental rights terminated in order for the adoption to continue. However, the father in this case did not consent or have his rights terminated.
Due to the mother’s deceptive actions, according to the court, the child was successfully placed for adoption with her maternal relatives who raised and cared for her while the court battles continued.
Ultimately, the appellate court came to the correct legal conclusion and granted dad “sole custody” or under Colorado law, sole allocation of parental responsibilities (parenting time and decision making authority).
However, because of the length of time the proceeding took, the child had established herself in the home of the aunt and uncle, whom she knows as her parents. It appears that father came to the very difficult decision to allow the child to remain in their care, to continue to live in her community in Utah and continue to attend school in that community. The Colorado court granted father sole decision making authority which he retains to this day, notwithstanding his daughter’s residence with maternal relatives.
While this case outlines an exception to what usually occurs in adoptions, it does present a cautionary tale about what can happen when a party intentionally deceives the court. This case also illustrates the potential psychological damage that a parent can cause for a child by a lack of honesty and integrity in dealing with the court.
Having a strong advocate on your side can help address some of these issues before they become more serious issues.