I’ve been following a case from Utah for some time now. You can read those earlier posts but the basic outlines are simple.
Terry Achane was married and his wife was pregnant. She wished to give the child up for adoption and he did not. When the army moved him from Texas (where they lived) to South Carolina the wife stayed behind. Eventually, she went to Utah to give birth. Utah law grants very limited parentage rights to unmarried men and, though Achane was married, it seems that the wife took advantage of this feature. (The marriage was apparently ending.) She placed the child for adoption and the little girl ended up with a couple named Frei. It took Achane some months to locate the child but in time he did and in October a court affirmed his rights as a legal parent. By that time the child was around 20 months old.
In terms of remedy going forward, the problem is that, rightly or wrongly, Achane is a total stranger to the child. The Freis are the only parents the child has ever known. Transferring custody is therefore a delicate matter even when it is the right thing to do.
The Freis sought to stay the transfer pending appeal–after all, if the order transferring custody turns out to be mistaken, then transferring actual custody of the child now will create an additional layer of disruption–because custody would then be transferred back to the Freis when they win on appeal.
Achane has a fine counter-argument on the stay. If the order recognizing him as the sole legal parent of the child is correct, then the sooner the transfer is accomplished, the better. And since he was not an unmarried father but rather a married one, the harsh provisions of Utah law should never have been applied to him. (Marital status is crucial to determination of legal parentage in many states.)
Yesterday the judge in Utah refused to grant the Freis request for a stay. He left intact the January 16 deadline by which the child must be turned over to Achane. I would understand the denial of a stay as a determination by the judge that his initial decision recognizing Achane as the sole legal parent of the child is likely correct. (If the judge thought there were good reasons to doubt the correctness of his ruling, he might grant the stay for the reasons argued by the Freis.)
The Freis apparently plan to appeal, but obviously there’s a short time-frame here. I imagine they’ll ask the appellate court for a stay pending appeal.
One other note–the article reports that there have been some efforts to raise money to defray legal costs of both parties. Surprisingly (at least, to me), the Freis have been more successful than has Achane. Of course, the money may come from friends/acquaintances/community members of the Freis, but I’m surprised because in general it seems to me that the sympathies here run more to Achane. I guess that could just be my view of things, though.