A father in Utah experienced the unfortunate rule of law due to his failure to file a paternity action before the mother of his child gave the baby up for adoption. Jake Strickland was in a relationship with a woman who ultimately gave birth to his baby. The couple was not married. During the pregnancy, the mother threatened to give the baby up for adoption, which Strickland opposed. The mother agreed to keep the baby if Strickland promised to "never leave" and to share jointly in the custody and costs of raising the child. Strickland agreed, but consulted an attorney. The attorney advised Strickland that he needed to file a paternity action to establish himself as the biological father and maintain his rights as the father. Strickland told the mother of his plan to file the paternity action, but she again threatened to put the baby up for adoption if he did so. Strickland agreed to not file the paternity action if she agreed to not go through with the adoption. She told him she agreed.
The day after the baby was born, the mother put the baby up for adoption on December 30, 2010. Finding no paternity action on file, the agency allowed the adoption to go through. This is entirely valid under Utah law, where only the birth mother's consent is necessary to consent to adoption; a father who has not been determined to be the biological father has no power to stop it. Strickland filed suit to challenge the adoption, but will not be successful. An explanation of the laws and rationale behind why such a lawsuit will end unfavorably for the father will follow in tomorrow's blog.
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