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December 7, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The latest event in the seemingly never-ending saga of Rob Manzanares’ efforts to get custody of his daughter sees him one step closer to winning his case once and for all. For those of you who don’t recall his case, please see my previous posts on it here and here.

It’s arguably the craziest and most destructive of all the adoption cases I’ve discussed. This is the first week of December, 2016. In a little over two months, Manzanares’ daughter will be nine years old. Every minute of that time, she’s been the subject of litigation in either Utah or Colorado or both. For a jaw-dropping nine years the courts of those states have kicked this case around, refusing to issue a final order on a set of facts that are so clear and so outrageous that the end should have come many years ago. Two years, I could have understood. Nine, I can’t.

In a nutshell, Manzanares had a relationship with a woman back in 2007. She became pregnant and announced her intention to place the child for adoption. Rob refused to give his consent and promised to raise the child himself either with the mother or alone. She promptly hatched a scheme with her brother to have him and his wife adopt the child. Needless to say, when it came time to give birth, she travelled to Utah, and, with the services of an experienced lawyer there, completed the adoption.

But Manzanares had already learned of the child’s birth in February of 2008 and gone to court in Colorado to assert his parental rights and enjoin the adoption. It took the Utah courts four years to relinquish the case to the Colorado courts, having found that the mother behaved deceitfully, fraudulently and outrageously. She lied to Utah adoption authorities, hospital personnel, and the Utah courts. She lied to Manzanares and to the Colorado court. She and her brother did all that for the sole purpose of denying Manzanares a relationship with his daughter and she a relationship with her dad.

All of that is recorded as fact by courts in Utah and Colorado. But, although Manzanares has been visiting with his daughter regularly and she understands that he’s her dad, he still doesn’t have custody. The girl’s mother and brother and sister-in-law have blatantly used the glacial pace of the court system to hang onto the child and keep her from her father for as long as possible. By the time the case is over, it’ll be nine years.

But the latest turn in the case shows the light at the end of the tunnel. Before that, the Colorado Court of Appeals had sent the case back to the trial court with instructions to determine whether the mother and her brother had colluded to deny Manzanares his parental rights. In an order that can be described as blunt (at least by the standards of the judiciary), Judge D. Brett Woods ruled on December 2, that the two had colluded and that, having done so, the would-be adoptive parents are now legally foreclosed (“estopped”) from ever asserting parental rights to the child. In short, after almost nine years, the adoption case is over.

What’s not over though is the custody and parenting time case. Judge Woods ordered that a hearing on that occur soon. Rob is the girl’s father and his ex-paramour is her mother. Both have parental rights and who is to get primary custody and what amount of parenting time must still be decided.

I have a few suggestions for Judge Woods. First, Rob Manzanares is the best of fathers. No one at any time throughout almost nine years of litigation has suggested otherwise. Plus, as judges in both Utah and Colorado have noted, he’s shown a dogged determination to fight for his daughter that few would consider possible. Rob Manzanares is a hero. He’s a hero to his daughter and he’s a hero to the principle that, first and foremost, children need their parents in order to thrive and grow. And he’s a hero for the countless parents, mostly single dads, who’ve been crushed by adoption courts. That he has prevailed against overwhelming odds gives hope to parents fighting in family courts throughout this country and beyond.

Second, Mom has demonstrated in many ways her lack of interest in being a mother to the child she gave birth to. She relinquished her rights two days after the child was born. In short, she looks to be a poor candidate for much parenting time.

Third, that said, children need both their parents, and this child is no exception. Mom should receive enough time with the girl to establish/maintain a healthy, meaningful relationship. But the judge must remember that Mom once stopped at nothing to deprive her daughter of a father and may do so again. Visitation should be supervised at least until Mom proves she’s not going to do something else illegal along those lines.

Fourth, Mom has announced that she may simply hand over her parenting time to her brother and his wife. The child has a relationship with those two and should be allowed to maintain it for a time, but a schedule should be set for easing them out of her life. Like Mom, they’ve proven themselves to be scoundrels and should be treated as such.

Finally, Mom should pay reasonable child support and Manzanares’s legal bills. The would-be adopters should be ordered to assist in paying the legal bills as well. None of this would have happened had the three of them not persisted in “fraudulent and outrageous” conduct for almost nine years. There must be a price to pay for that behavior and simply losing their rights to child custody isn’t high enough.

That’s what should happen. Soon enough, we’ll learn what does.

 

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

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#adoption, #fraud, #Utah

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