For many people, few things tug at the heart more than child custody cases that drag on and are marked by lack of clarity regarding an outcome that is clearly in a child's best interest.
Many divorce cases featuring child custody issues are devoid of such concerns, but for those that aren't, the decisions that are made and ultimately enforced can entail a roller coaster of emotions for involved parties and create new legal obligations that can significantly affect a child.
A matter in Utah that has garnered considerable media attention bears that out. It is essentially what might be termed a "fathers' rights" case, and it underscores both how complex a custody matter can become and the clear importance of any person involved in a custody dispute to secure experienced legal counsel to advocate on his or her behalf.
Summarized, these are the facts. A soldier and his wife, living in Texas, were experiencing marital problems when she became pregnant. Prior to her husband's relocation to another state, she suggested adoption, which her spouse strongly objected to. While he was away on duty, she gave birth and, without his knowledge, contacted a Utah adoption agency. A Utah couple eventually adopted the couple's baby girl.
The soldier was unaware of these developments, and also lost track of his wife. By the time he found out what had transpired, the child was already several months old and legally under the care of the adoptive couple.
Thus began an odyssey through the courts. Last year, a Utah family court judge said he was "astonished and deeply troubled" by the adoption agency's maneuvers in circumvention of the father's rights. He ordered the child returned to the father. On appeal, the Utah Supreme Court upheld that decision, although the case still remains open, with another hearing scheduled for March.
In the meantime, the child, now 22 months old, is back with her father, who says that the adoptive couple "raised my daughter right" and is allowing them continued visitation rights, at least over the foreseeable future.
As for the couple, they are understandably upset by the decision and have expressed "great shock and dismay."
Source: New York Daily News, "'I got my daughter back': South Carolina military dad reunited with daughter who was put up for adoption without his consent," Erik Ortiz, Jan. 27, 2013