What To Know If You Are Trying To Prevent Adoption

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If you have a sexual relationship with a woman, Utah law presumes that you have notice that a pregnancy and an adoption proceeding may occur. This law means that you are presumed to have notice that you are the father of a child even if the mother does not actually tell you, though there are exceptions if the mother or one of the adoptive parents has lived outside of Utah during the pregnancy. In other words, if you want to make sure that your biological child is not adopted without your consent, you need to keep track of the potential pregnancies of all the women with whom you have a sexual relationship.

If you are the father of a young child, or one who is about to be born, but you are not married to the mother, then you must follow very specific rules to prevent an adoption of your child without your consent. Utah’s Supreme Court has ruled that fathers must strictly comply with every single requirement or the mother can place the baby for adoption without the father’s consent.

If the child is 6 months old or younger:

  1. Initiate a lawsuit in the district court of Utah to establish paternity;
  2. File with the court presiding over the paternity case a sworn affidavit stating:
    1. you are fully able and willing to have full custody of the child;
    2. your specific plans to care for the child;
    3. you agree to follow the court’s child support order; and
    4. you agree to follow the court’s order for payment of expenses incurred in connection with the mother’s pregnancy and the child’s birth.
  3. File a notice that you have commenced a paternity lawsuit with the state registrar of vital statistics with the Department of Health in the registry established for that purpose (although not required, it helps to attach of copy of the paternity petition and affidavit to the notice sent to the Department of Health); and
  4. Offer to pay and actually pay, during the pregnancy and after the child’s birth, a fair and reasonable amount of the pregnancy and birth expense as you are able[1], unless one of the following applies:
    1. you did not have actual knowledge of the pregnancy;
    2. you became prevented from paying the expenses by the a person or agency who has custody of the child, or
    3. the mother refuses to accept your offer to pay the expenses.

What Else To Consider

Normally, you have until one business day after the child is born to take each of the steps listed above. But you will only have 30 days to take each of these steps if you receive a “Pre-Birth Notice of Intent to Place Child for Adoption.”

This notice is a document served on you that tells you the mother intends to go forward with an adoption, along with other information. If you receive this notice, then you have to take each of the steps within 30 days of receiving the notice or you will forever lose your right to object to the adoption of your child.

If the child is older than 6 months when the mother decides to pursue an adoption:

You must do at least one of the following (unless prevented from doing so by the mother or another person who has custody of your child):

  1. Develop a substantial relationship with the child by
    1. visiting the child at least monthly, unless you cannot do this physically or financially or regularly communicating with the child or the person who has legal custody of the child;
    2. Take some measure of responsibility for the child and the child’s future; and
    3. Demonstrate a full commitment to the responsibility of parenthood by supporting your child financially by paying a fair and reasonable amount given your ability.
  1. Openly hold yourself out as the father and live with the child
    1. at least 6 of the 12 months before the mother places the child for adoption; or
    2. if the child is fewer than 12 months old, for a period of at least 6 before the mother places the child for adoption.

Utah law specifically states that a desire to do these things is not enough if you don’t actually do them. The court will want to have evidence that you have made real, verifiable efforts to meet these requirements.

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[1] Courts typically ask the parents to pay equal shares of the of the pregnancy and childbirth expenses. So, to be safe, you should offer and pay at least ½ of the out-of-pocket expenses.