Against all the odds, Robert Manzanares is about to get custody of his daughter. Maybe. Manzanares is the only unmarried father I’ve ever heard of to defeat the adoption of his child in Utah courts. Many, like John Wyatt and Kevin O’Day have tried, but Manzanares actually did the deed. His victory in the Utah Supreme Court begins to look like the act of a court that’s become uneasy about the state’s blatant theft of children from fathers and into the adoption market. Read the latest about Manzanares here (KSL, 5/1/12).
Like the cases that have gone before it, Manzanares’ is one in which his child’s mother pursued an elaborate campaign of lying, abetted by Utah lawyer Larry Jenkins, for the purpose of placing a child for adoption even though the father told one and all that he intended to care for his child.
Manzanares lives in Denver. Back in 2007, he had a relationship with Carie Terry. She became pregnant and soon announced that she intended to place the child for adoption. Manzanares told her he would never consent to his child’s adoption and began paying the costs of her pregnancy – about $2,500 in all. Early in 2008, Terry went to Utah, ostensibly to visit her sick father. Actually she’d gone there to give birth to the child and place her for adoption, all facilitated by Larry Jenkins. She gave birth five weeks early and turned the child over to the adoptive parents Jenkins had lined up. Terry then returned to Colorado childless.
But before she’d given birth and unknown to Terry, Manzanares had already filed his paternity suit in Colorado. He’d won the race to the courthouse and that turned out to be all important in deciding his case. He soon hired attorneys in Utah to contest the adoption. That process took over two years, during which time he almost never saw his daughter, nor she him. The first time he set eyes on her was in December of 2009. She was almost two years old. Eventually, the Utah adoption was killed by the state’s Supreme Court in an opinion that turned on the fact that, by sheer dumb luck, Manzanares had managed to file his Colorado paternity case before the completion of the adoption in Utah.
Needless to say, that something as precious (in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, parental rights are “far more precious than property rights”) as a father’s right to his child and a child’s right to her father can turn on something as trivial as who got to the courthouse first is disgraceful. But in fact it’s worse than that. In fact, that very rule encourages mothers to lie to fathers. After all, completing an adoption in Utah can take just a matter of a few days. All she has to do is pull the wool over his eyes for that short a time and he’ll never see his child. That’s how the system works in Utah. It’s immoral.
But, because he was lucky and because he doggedly did everything right, including filing with the Putative Father Registry, paying the mother, etc., Manzanares has been declared the winner, apparently the first in history. Maybe.
He’s not home free yet. That’s because there are still legal proceedings in Colorado. What kind? Custody proceedings, that’s what kind. That’s right, Manzanares still has to contend with the parental rights of Carie Terry, the child’s mother, the woman who handed her newborn to strangers the day she came into the world. Yes, her rights were terminated with her avid consent shortly after the child was born, but before the case went to the Utah Supreme Court, they were reinstated. Has Terry ever shown the slightest interest in caring for the child? Has she done anything to indicate a desire to be the girl’s mother? If so, no article I’ve seen has mentioned it. To me, her entire approach to the little girl looks like legal abandonment, complete with the obvious intention to do so. So desperate was she to get rid of the child, she lied again and again to Manzanares and to the Colorado trial court to do so.
Meanwhile Manzanares has bent heaven and earth to be a father to his daughter, spending over $200,000 in the process.
So how will his custody case turn out? Of course it should be a slam dunk for Manzanares. He should get primary custody and Mom should get very limited supervised visitation. After all, unsupervised time with the child would open the door to her to do who knows what. She’s tried to abandon the child once, what might she do given a second opportunity? And of course she should pay him child support. But we’ve learned through many hard lessons that, when it comes to fathers and their children, what should happen often does not.
This is about as clear a case in which the dad should get custody as I can think of . We’ll see what happens.