Just yesterday, the Utah Supreme Court rejected a father’s attempt to overturn his daughter’s adoption. He evidently didn’t meet the deadlines in two states for asserting parental rights.
John M. Wyatt, the Virginia father, also tried to evoke the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act – which would require the Utah Supreme Court to give him custody of his daughter, “Baby Emma.” The court denied this as well, claiming that he needed to raise the argument in a lower court first.
The story gets worse.
While Wyatt planned all along to raise his daughter, his then-girlfriend and birth-mother of Emma, Emily Colleen Fahland, did not. Fahland relinquished her parental rights just two days after her birth, and less than a month later, with the help of a Utah adoption agency, Thomas and Chandra Zarembinski initiated Emma’s adoption. Wyatt’s lawyer claims that he has visitation and custody papers that were filed before the Zarembinskis initiated the adoption.
Utah’s got pretty nasty rules for establishing paternity, especially if you’re unmarried. According to the Salt Lake Tribune:
Utah’s statute requires unmarried biological fathers to follow a strict time frame, regardless of where they reside or where a child is born, to preserve any right to object to an adoption. The biological father must show he did not and could not have known an adoption was being considered; begin court proceedings to establish his paternity before a birth mother gives consent for an adoption to proceed; and demonstrate he is fully committed to assuming his parental responsibilities, such as paying for pregnancy-related expenses.
So basically, if you get a woman pregnant, and end up in some sort of dispute with her, you’ve got flaming hoops to jump through just to be a part of your child’s life. The mother can more or less sell the baby off without the father ever knowing, and by the time the father does find out, he could be outside of the brief window of time available to contest it. The Salt Lake Tribune notes that at least six other unmarried fathers have been legally stopped from seeing their children in Utah.
In addition to his dealings with the Supreme Court in Utah, John Wyatt has a federal lawsuit pending in Virginia where he claims he was fraudulently deprived of his parental rights.
Jeri Wyatt, John’s mother, has some choice words for Utah: “Shame on Utah for crafting biased, unconstitutional laws against unmarried biological fathers. The state of Utah has been doing this for years and they’ll continue doing it, and somebody has to stop it.” Utah was not available for comment or rebuttal.
Wyatt says that he will, one day, be part of his daughter’s life. “Whether I have to wait until she is of age, I want to be a part of her life,” said Wyatt. “There is nothing anyone or those people can do to stop me from being part of her life.”
If you can handle an out-of-control 90′s-looking website, you can read the story in Jeri and John’s words on their website – www.babyemmawyatt.com – or check out the Salt Lake Tribune’s story sauced below.
(Also, it should be explained that I’m in no way making fun of John Wyatt’s terrible situation with my header image. My hope was to illustrate the ridiculousness of the Utah laws, while, yes, poking a little fun at Wyatt’s odd footwear decision. Who knows a newspaper is coming to do an interview and doesn’t put on shoes?!)
Sauce: The Salt Lake Tribune