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Fathers' rights on display in state's recent adoption law change

20784372_S.jpgUtah would certainly qualify for inclusion on any list of states that serve as lightning rods for triggering fathers' rights cases in family law matters.

In fact, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert's recent signing of new legislation that modifies existing adoption law in that state has attracted the attention of fathers' rights groups across the country.

Here's why. Until passage of the bill, entitled Adoption Act Amendments, a gaping loophole in Utah's statutory scheme governing adoption allowed a woman from outside the state to simply enter its confines to give birth and thereafter put up her child for adoption. Any woman was free to do so without any requirement that she first notify the child's biological father or obtain his consent for the adoption.

That law long frustrated many dads across the country and served to galvanize broad-based male opposition. Conversely, and for understandable reasons, the recently signed amendment is garnering praise, even if kudos are being qualified by some commentators. The new statutory language requires that a pregnant woman must now live inside Utah for 90 days or file relevant information about the biological father with a court, which might then contact the father.

Wes Hutchins is an attorney who represents more than 30 male clients in a federal civil rights lawsuit. He calls the just-passed bill a “great first step,” but adds that additional loopholes remain in Utah’s existing law that need to be changed.

One of those is a so-called “fraud immunity” statute that quite clearly allows for circumvention of the new law notwithstanding its stated dictates. A woman in Utah can falsely sign an affidavit stating she has met the 90-day requirement, avoiding the duty to provide any notice to the father of her child. If her fraud is subsequently discovered following adoption of the child, the father’s only legal remedy is to sue for damages. The adoption remains valid.

“Dads want their kids back,” says Hutchins, “not money damages.”

Fathers’ rights are often a central consideration in family law disputes in Illinois and Missouri, most notably in paternity and child custody matters. A father with questions or concerns regarding any family law topic can receive prompt and knowledgeable advice from a proven St. Louis fathers’ rights attorney.

Source: Fox News, "Utah governor signs bill giving fathers new rights in adoption cases," Faith Mangan and Alicia Acuna, April 3, 2014

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