I’ll leave folks to go back and read either the earlier post (I just linked to it) or the article for the facts. They are rather long and complicated. But the short of it is that Robert Manzanares is the genetic father of a six-year old girl who has been living with a Utah couple her entire life. (The people raising her are actually the brother and sister-in-law of her genetic mother.)
Regular readers here will know that Utah is a state that is very hard on unmarried genetic fathers. As a matter of policy the state would much rather have children raised by married couples. Hence, it is easy for a woman to give birth and place a child for adoption in UT and it is hard for a man who is the genetic father of the child to stand claim a right to raise the child himself.
This is where Manzanares got caught. The genetic mother (Carie Morelock) engaged in a series of deceptions that ended with the her brother and sister in law completing an adoption of the child even as Mananares pursued paternity in Colorado. The conduct was egregious enough that it even seem to disturb the UT Supreme Court, and the actions of that court were the occasion of the blog post two year ago.
It appears that since that time the matter has been pending in the Colorado courts. It’s more than a little disturbing (to me anyway) that it seems to have taken over two years for a trial court judge to rule in this case. (I could be missing something here–maybe there is an intermediate appeal that slowed things down?) In any event, part of the problem is clearly the passage of time. The girl is now six. She has lived her entire life with the married couple in UT. It really would be incredibly disruptive to sever those relationships, even if their origins were tainted by the earlier proceeding.
And this, it seems, is the heart of the judge’s finding. The child will continue to live with the UT parents, but Manzanares gets to play ‘an important fatherly role.’ The three adults (Manzanares and the couple) will make all the important decisions jointly. It appears that they have overcome their differences enough so that they can cooperate about this. (I do wonder about who actually has legal parental rights. Perhaps all three of them?)
The news story describes the court’s decision as “Solomonic” and you can see why. There are deep tensions running in different directions. Do you reward the adoptive parents, who participated in the original wrong-doing? That hardly seems right. But do you punish the child (by disrupting her crucial relationships) in order to avoid rewarding the adoptive parents? Do you try to undo the wrong done on Manzanares? And at what cost to the child?
Frankly, it seems to me the ability of the parties here to cooperate made all the difference. It gave the judge a way forward that will allow the child to develop a relationship with Manzanares even as she maintains a relationship with the adoptive parents. If the adults can continue to get along, this seems like by far the best way forward.
So maybe one can take two lessons from this. First, the passage of time in cases like only makes them more and more difficult. You’d think this could motivate court systems to put them on a faster track? And second, that the best hope for resolutions that really do serve the children caught up in this are those that involve the adults behaving like adults and working together for the best of the child.