Man Still Trying to Get Son after Supreme Court Ruling

Man Still Trying to Get Son after Supreme Court Ruling

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FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) -- A man who won a Utah Supreme Court case to try to get custody of his son still is locked in litigation with the adoptive parents.

The latest wrinkle: technical errors in 2004 that could be costly to Nikolas Thurnwald.

Thurnwald was listed as the "petitioner" when he filed a paternity claim. He should have been the "respondent." The petitioner would have been the birth mother.

"'Let her have custody. I want to be the father, and I'll provide support.' That's how the petition reads," said Larry Jenkins, attorney for the adoptive parents.

The error was fixed the next day, but Jenkins told a judge Tuesday that Utah law uses the phrase "strict compliance" seven times, meaning even the smallest of errors can invalidate a filing.

"Now that's going to come down on Mr. Thurnwald?" his attorney, Dan Drage, responded.

Thurnwald's mother, Christy Thurnwald, is frustrated.

"You can't keep a kid just because of a mistake on a paper," she said.

Thurnwald has never met the 3-year-old boy. He was deeply involved in preparations for the birth, but his girlfriend went into premature labor in September 2004 and gave the child up for adoption without talking to him.

Thurnwald's paternity petition was rejected at the time because he missed a deadline. But the Utah Supreme Court said it was unfair: Thurnwald deserved extra time because the birth occurred on the Labor Day weekend and courts were closed on that Monday.

The May court ruling, however, didn't automatically give the child to Thurnwald. It allowed him to attempt to overturn the adoption. The adoptive parents want to keep the boy.

Second District Judge Michael Allphin called the case a "judge's worst nightmare" and said his decision will be based on law, not emotion or a subjective sense of what is best for the child.

"I thought it would be a month or two, but now it's turned into three years," Thurnwald said after the hearing. "And it looks like there might still be a long journey ahead of us."


Information from: Standard-Examiner

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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