So here’s a sad story that made the rounds a little while back, about a guy whose (alleged) child was put up for adoption without his consent:

An unmarried Utah father whose son was placed for adoption at birth without his knowledge or consent has filed a $130 million federal lawsuit against the biological mother, adoption agency, adoptive parents and attorneys alleging they conspired in an “illegal deceit-ridden infant adoption” that deprived him of his son.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Jake Strickland alleges the defendants acted in a “clandestine” manner and “essentially kidnapped” his son. It alleges the defendants engaged in racketeering, human trafficking and various kinds of fraud as part of a conspiracy to deprive Strickland of his child.

There is a mechanism to prevent this from happening, as Strickland could have put in a paternity registry claim. Since he did not, the husband of the mother was able to (and required to) sign off on it. If the characterization of events is accurate, it does sound like Strickland was wronged, but he was wronged in a sort of bad-faith way that the law can’t really accommodate for. At least that’s my impression, the court case is still pending.

Given the time and distance since the original adoption, it’s a hard case to make that the child could or should be returned to him. Given the bad faith involved on the part of the mother (at least) it seems more possible that there are some monetary damages to realistically be asked for. I have the vague feeling that we may not be dealing with particularly deep pockets here, however.

A more well-known case involves Dustin Brown, which involved some similar circumstances but also our laws with regard to the tribes:

A four-year-old Cherokee girl known as “Baby Veronica” is with her South Carolina adoptive parents Monday, after a fierce custody battle that raised questions about tribal sovereignty and a federal law meant to help keep Native American tribes together.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court [on September 23, 2013] dissolved a temporary order leaving the child with her biological father, Dustin Brown, a member of the Cherokee nation who had fought the adoption.

“She’s safely in her parents’ arms,” said Jessica Munday, a spokeswoman for Matt and Melanie Capobianco, of Charleston, S.C.

Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Amanda Clinton confirmed that Veronica was handed over to the Capobiancos hours after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted the stay. Until the Monday night transfer, the Cherokee Nation had insisted the girl would remain with the tribe.

Indian parents (including fathers) are offered some extra protections due to some ugly history of taking their children from them and handing them over to white folks. In this case, though, the Indian heritage was comparatively minor (Veronica is 3/256th Cherokee). This was a turbulent case insofar as the child was relocated a couple of times as the case worked its way through the court system. Brown (the father) himself has relatively loose Indian heritage, but even that granted him some procedural rights that were not followed. Brown himself messed up by waving paternity rights early on (though in an informal way that wouldn’t be accepted under most circumstances).

This case cluttered up my Facebook feed for a while. For whatever reason, a number of typically apolitical friends took a great interest in the story from the father’s point of view.

All of which serves as reminders for young men to be cognizant of who they are sleeping with, the pregnancies that might result, and the extent to which you can trust this person. And in the absence of such trust, being as diligent as possible about following the pregnancy and asserting what rights you have.


Category: Courthouse

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