Unmarried father wins visitation rights in custody battle

DENVER — Rob Manzanares has only seen his daughter once in four and a half years but that hasn’t stopped him from battling courts in Utah and Colorado to get custody of his child.

A judge in Denver Friday decided to allow him visitation rights going forward, something he calls a victory for all ‘dads’ like him who are being denied custodial rights to their children.

The situation usually happens when the birth mother and father are not married. In many states, fathers have to sign up with a state registry to assert their rights.

In Utah, experts say the laws are much more in favor of the birth mother, which is why fathers often lose custody rights when courts in that state get involved.

“Because I signed up to be my daughter’s dad in Colorado long before the mom—Carie Terry—decided to go to Utah and let her brother adopt our child, the courts there should never have approved the custody change,” said Manzanares.

“But because adoption lawyers there often work with the LDS Church, most fathers have little or no chance of winning custody battles.”

The break in the case happened early this year, when the Utah Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision, and decided to overturn the Utah adoption meaning the custody case would have to be heard in Colorado.

“The ruling was a major victory, in that had the high court there upheld the ruling, the case would have made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the covers would have been pulled off the adoption scams being run against un-wed fathers in Utah,” said Manzanares.

Today, a Colorado court decided to give visitation rights to both birth parents, something that must happen within the next 30 days.

“I want the child to undergo testing to see how well she is handling visits from both parents, I need to have a plan for visits to happen, and I want to make sure the rights of even the adoptive parents are being protected, even though those rights were not given legally,” said Judge D. Brett Woods.

“We are going to move this case along, and we are going to have a trial, but I want the child to be given every opportunity to know her parents without putting any undo pressure on her.”

The case has national implications in as much as fathers around the nation are watching to see how Manzanares makes out with his custody battle.

“This is huge,” said Manzanares. “For all the dads fighting for custody, this ruling will go a long way in rewriting laws both in Utah and other states as it relates to what a dad’s rights are, when a mother violates one state’s laws to get a child adopted in Utah.”

The case will be back in court in late May, after both parents—at different times and places–have had a chance to be introduced to their little girl.


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