Some people look at Utah adoption laws as a beacon for the Nation, others look at them as an unjust burden for an unwed father. Utah law states that the father of a child that is born outside of wedlock must protect his parental rights as soon as the baby is born or else lose the child forever.
In the past few years Utah has seen an unprecedented amount of unwed fathers fighting for custody rights to their children. In nearly every case the father was unaware that their child would be put up for adoption, and had extreme difficulties in acquiring the proper paper work to assert their putative father rights.
In cases where a mother does not want the father to be in the decision making process, she can flee to Utah where the laws make it extremely difficult for unwed fathers to maintain parental rights to their child. Those who have tried were often living out of state, but when they turned to the ever helpful internet nothing could be found anywhere on how to register as a putative father in Utah. As they searched for the means to ascertain their putative rights, often times the mother had already birthed and given the child up for adoption, without any consent of the biological father. Although a rarity, sometimes these unwed fathers will take the matter to court, stating that they were deceived and misled by the mother of the child. However, any sort of fraud by the mother such as hiding the pregnancy does not excuse a man from protecting his rights as a parent. An out of state father only has twenty days to find out about his baby’s birth and then make sure that he still had custody over the child. The process is long and complicated, and most men say that the law purposefully makes it difficult for the father to gain custody.
Recently, The Salt Lake Tirbune has written a series of articles about this issue of unwed fathers’ rights. Each of the articles highlights different stories about men who want to care for and protect the children they had out of wedlock, but were not given that opportunity because of the strict Utah laws. I understand that marriage is a legal contract, which entitles both parents to custody rights, and if you are not married you do not have those rights when you have children. However, it appears that most states make it pretty simple to register for those rights. You print out a form and send it in within the time limits and you are set. In Utah, you cannot find those forms online, the only way to find them is to go into the department building and pick them up in person -something most fathers cannot do because they live out of state.
I personally believe that having children out of wedlock is not the best idea. But if you do, and the father wants to raise that child, and is capable of doing so, he should be given that right. It should not be as difficult as it currently is in the state of Utah. If an unwed mother wanted to keep her child, she is not disputed. If a father wants to keep the child, why is his plight made so challenging? I feel like the forms and papers you need to file to become a putative father in the state of Utah and to keep your child from being adopted without your consent, should be made more accessible and the information on deadlines and other requirements made more available to those in and outside of the state.
If you are an unwed father seeking to assert your parental rights, the paternity and custody attorneys at Schmidt Law Firm can assist you.