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Changes to law intended to strengthen fathers' rights

A nationwide movement to improve fathers' rights may have just received a serious boost from a Mountain West state. The impact of a recent family law bill could be felt in Minnesota and other areas. News reports show that the governor of Utah has strengthened fathers' rights provisions in the state by creating barriers to quick, secretive adoptions.

The bill comes after a number of high-profile cases in which women have fled to Utah and sought speedy adoptions without telling their children's fathers. One North Carolina man was granted custody rights to his daughter after discovering that the newborn had been placed for adoption without his consent. Utah has gained a bad reputation as a haven for mothers who want to initiate fraudulent adoptions; state lawmakers say the legal changes could help the state shrug that image.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill into law just weeks after the Utah Supreme Court determined that another adoption -- this one involving a birth father from Pennsylvania -- was invalid. That case has been remanded to a lower court, even as a class-action lawsuit is pending against the state for its previous permissive laws. Fathers who have been battling for their custody rights may have legal options in civil court that will allow them to fight against unjust state mandates. The newly minted Utah legislation is slated to take effect in May.

Changes to state law will require unwed mothers to live in the state for at least three months before giving a child up for adoption. Alternatively, the mother can file official documents about the birth father, so the man can be identified and contacted; of course, accommodations will be made for mothers who have been victims of domestic abuse. Family court judges will now be required to ask the hard questions to make sure that fathers' rights are protected throughout the adoption process.

Source: Star Tribune, "Utah governor signs bill to strengthen adoption regulations, notify more birth fathers" Annie Knox, Associate Press, Apr. 02, 2014

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