The father of a girl put up for adoption without his consent warns that gaining full custody through the courts is a dicey proposition and is calling upon lawmakers to enact changes that can prevent long, painful processes similar to the one he has endured.
Robert Manzanares shared details of his groundbreaking and shocking illegal adoption case, in which his daughter was placed for adoption without permission, on The Steve Malzberg Show on Newsmax TV, calling the now six-year-long saga "outstandingly wild and unconstitutional on so many levels."
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The story began in Colorado in 2007, when Manzanares learned his then-girlfriend, Carie Terry Morelock, was pregnant. When she decided on a whim that they could not properly care for the child and wanted to put the child up for adoption, Manzanares protested and the couple broke up. To protect his rights, he filed a paternity petition in Colorado, where they lived, in January 2008.
A month later, unbeknownst to Manzanares, Morelock traveled to Utah to visit a sick relative and gave premature birth to a girl on Feb. 17, 2008. The same day she was due to appear in a Colorado courtroom on Manzanares' paternity petition, Morelock stood before a Utah judge and signed away her parental rights to Scott and Julissa Byington, her brother and sister-in-law.
According to Manzanares, the Utah Supreme Court ruled two years ago that "the adoption should be turned down due to the fraud." The case was sent back to the lower court in Colorado, where he had filed the initial paternity action.
Last month, a juvenile judge in Colorado ruled that the now-6-year-old girl will continue to live primarily with her "psychological parents," the Byingtons in Utah, but that Manzanares can play an "important fatherly role" with visitation in both Utah and his current home state of New Mexico.
"My case, on its face, is very dangerous to any father, any biological parent wanting to be a part of their child's life," Manzanares told Malzberg. "Parents who basically held custody of a child for six months… at a minimum can win psychological parenting rights to that child and primary care and joint custody with a biological parent. It's a very dangerous term."
Manzanares acknowledged that his daughter's adoptive parents "have done a great job of raising her," and he has opted for a slow transition with her. He chose to go through reunification therapy with his daughter "to get her on a level where she could somewhat understand this all."
"She loves me, I'm her dad. She's accepted it, she's a great ball of energy for one, and she's a great child," he said. "She's gotten to spend some time here with me in my home and gotten to know her siblings here and she's wonderful."
But, Manzanares wants to make sure other fathers don't have to go through what he has.
"Why I'm appealing this case is there's not true case law," he said. "There's this thing called 'custody by estoppel' where we're basically rewarding a family who did all of the things they did by keeping me away from my daughter and fumbling through court system after court system and now winning rights to my daughter which they should've never had the opportunity to even apply for rights to my daughter. They are not her biological parents.
"Right now the Colorado Supreme Court has the opportunity to change this. I'm just asking that this fraud be recognized for what it is and that's, its fraud. It's taking somebody else's child."
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