SALT LAKE CITY — A Colorado judge has awarded "sole custody" to a man whose daughter was born in Utah and placed for adoption more than nine years ago without his knowledge or consent.
Rob Manzanares' lengthy battle to assert his rights as a parent came to fruition Friday when he was awarded custody of the girl, who lives in Utah.
Manzanares' attorney, Michael L. Cheroutes Jr., wrote in an email to the Deseret News that Colorado does not technically award custody. Colorado courts "allocate 'parental responsibilities,' which constitutes 'parenting time' and 'decision-making authority,'" he wrote.
Cheroutes said Manzanares "after some soul-searching, agreed she could continue to attend school in Utah in the care of her aunt and uncle."
Friday's ruling was the latest in a battle fought in state trial and appellate courts in Utah and Colorado, and in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Utah, for most of the past decade.
Manzanares lives in New Mexico and is raising a son he had with his wife, and her children from a previous relationship in what Cheroutes earlier described as a "modern blended family."
According to court records, the child in the center of the case was conceived in Colorado but born prematurely in Utah in February 2008. The biological mother made clear her desire to place the child for adoption, a judge's findings of fact in an earlier ruling in the case states.
"Petitioner (Manzanares) objected. Petitioner stated he would not consent to an adoption and wanted to raise the child. Petitioner consistently informed respondent that he wanted to raise the child and would do so alone if she did not want to co-parent with him," the findings state.
Five months before the child's birth, respondent "hatched the plan to give the baby up for adoption to her brother and sister-in-law as early as October or November of 2007," a juvenile judge wrote, quoting an earlier Utah Supreme Court ruling.
Neither the biological mom nor her brother and sister-in-law told Manzanares about their specific plans for adoption, court documents state.
About a month before the baby's birth, the biological mother told Manzanares she was going to visit her ill father in Utah.
An email she sent Manzanares during the pregnancy suggested she would be returning to Colorado to address issues at work prior to the child's birth.
"The court finds this email to be deliberately and intentionally deceitful. The court finds this email was intended to mislead (Manzanares) into thinking that no final decision would be made about the adoption until April, when in fact respondent planned to give the child up for adoption to the interveners in Utah as soon as possible," according to the court's findings of fact.
Court documents also state that the biological mother and her brother had "explored the possibility of inducing labor early. At the most recent evidentiary hearing in Denver, it was learned those discussions may have begun as early as December or January in 2007 and 2008."
The Utah trial court found that the birth mother's sister-in-law's name was on the birth certificate, but Manzanares was not listed as the father.
Three days after the baby's birth, the biological mother appeared before a judge in Utah to consent to the adoption.
That same day, the biological mother informed the Denver Juvenile Court by telephone that she would not be appearing at a hearing on Manzanares' paternity petition and effort to seek an injunction on an adoption.
"She did not inform anyone in Colorado that she had given birth and was about to appear for an adoption consent hearing in Utah. The court finds this call was intentionally deceptive," Denver Juvenile Judge D. Brent Woods' earlier order states.