Friday, August 03, 2007

LDS Family Services and biological fathers

Today's Trib mentioned that LDS Family Services wants a paternity test and proof of payment of pregnancy expenses by a man who won a Utah Supreme Court case against it a few months ago. In May, the court ruled that Nikolas Thurnwald was entitled to challenge the adoption of his child. From the court's opinion, it was hard not to worry that LDS had done a disservice to this baby and the prospective adoptive parents. The result? A 3-year-old child may be removed from the only home that he has ever known, and placed with a veritable stranger. The nub:

Under Utah law, a biological father must file a paternity suit and register with the state before the birth mother relinquishes custody of the baby. The mother cannot relinquish until 24 hours after giving birth. Thus, by statute, biological mothers and fathers are both supposed to have some period of time following the birth of a child to assert or waive their parental rights.

Nikolas Thurnwald learned on the Saturday before Labor Day 2004 that his girlfriend was giving birth prematurely. LDS Family Services took the mother's relinquishment 24 hours later. Because government offices were closed, Thurnwald was not able to file his paternity suit and notice until Tuesday, the next business day. The Supreme Court held that the filings were timely.

Unlike cases in which a biological father shows up long after a baby has been placed, LDS and the adoptive parents knew from the get go that Thurnwald was seeking custody. Rather than accept that hard fact and avoid a risk of traumatizing the child years later, they decided to fight. We can understand the emotion. One of us has a friend who recently adopted. The couple dreaded the possibility that the mother would change her mind following the birth, but they were prepared for it. The same would have been true had the father intervened.

One can argue that Thurnwald should have filed earlier, even if his girlfriend assured him that she was keeping the baby. That may well be true, although the court suggested one potential benefit of waiting:

[T]he Legislature may have intended under the adoption statutes for the unwed father to reach a certain maturity in the decision-making process regarding the care of the child after birth before filing a paternity action. Therefore, the unwed father also has an incentive to wait until he is ready to finally decide what is best for the child before taking the actions required by the adoption statutes.
But whether Thurnwald should have acted sooner is not really the point. The law is the law and, frankly, the court's ruling seemed pretty Duh to us. As the court pointed out, LDS could not cite a single case holding that a biological father's rights could be cut off before the birth of a child.

In this case, we hope that the paternity test comes back negative, or he can't show that he provided support during the pregnancy. Otherwise, this 3-year-old football will be taken, screaming and afraid, from his home and handed over to a stranger. If that happens, whose fault will it be?

12 comments:

greasy joan said...

It will be the fault of LDS family services, who should know better & have the character to do the right thing.

It's a no-brainer.

Where are the people rattling and squawking about foster children moved repeatedly from "the only home they have ever known?"

Me thinketh it really only matters to big adoption if the child is a profit-making healthy white infant.

LDS Family Services and the potential adopters reportedly knew of this challenge upfront and chose to drag this on, in hopes of playing the media "this is the only home he's ever known" card.

Reprehensible.

Voice of Utah said...

We do find it disturbing that LDS proceeded with this placement in the face of seems to us a very likely ruling that that the father was entitled to challenge the adoption. Presumably, the agency or the adoptive parents' lawyer told them of the significant risk, and they chose to take it (or, more accurately, for the child to take it). We also find that troubling.

Anonymous said...

lds family told Thurnwald he had no rights when infact he did. It even states on their contract they can right fully tell people like Mr. Thurnwald by lies, fraud deceit etc. that he has no rights UNLESS he knows he does. This is not his fault the mother of his child deceived him and gave the baby away and the adoptive parents knew Mr. Thurnwald wanted his son from day one and they still proceeded to fight for a child that was not theirs and SHAME ON THEM for being selfish!!! God will punish the ones guilty in the end here and it is the LDS family agency. And as for the paternity test? now why is LDS going through all this trouble to put Mr. Thurnwald through a trial? They know the child is his or they would have smacked him with a DNA test a long time ago! I am praying for Mr. Thurnwald and i am praying for his child!

Anonymous said...

The father has as much right to his baby as did the mother, or some people that took no part in its conception. Circumstances were outside of his control and I commend him for wanted to love and raise his baby, as for the adoptive parents they should have asked more questions in the beginning and should be nice to the father, otherwise they may never see their child again.

ana said...

sorry...
but the LDS is bullshit!!!

Anonymous said...

The Utah laws need to change!!! I had the same thing happen to me and i was searching for my daughter for two years! I reascently found her. The adopting parents wont respond to my letters. FATHERS SHOULD HAVE RIGHTS EVEN IF THEY WERENT MARRIED!! I was told constantly that i have no rights. This is an outrage!! I will keep fighting till i get to see my daughter!! Babys should NOT be adopted out without the fathers consent!! I had my baby stolen from me and the state of Utah tells me to bad. What is this country coming to?

JLBills said...

Untlil any of you have gone through this exact situation none of you have the right to judge it. I have been through a very similar situation when I placed and I have many friends who went through the same thing. I think LDSFamily services has helped more people then any of you know. And the birthfathers are always informed of the rights. Many a time the birthfathers are never actually there DURING the pregnancy they just want all the easy part. Stop taking your feelings of frustration out on LDSFS when they were just doing their job to the best of their ability. Until you are in the situation, you don't really have a right to say much of anything. comments or questions to my comment: birthmothers4adoption@gmail.com, birthmothers4adoption.blogspot.com

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