Glenn Sacks' Blog Fathers & Families featured an article authored by Robert Franklin, Esq on September 24th, 2009 that caught my eye. I frequently am contacted by fathers who are concerned about their parental rights in cases where the parents have never married. Franklin wrote about a biological father who opposed adoption of his child but the Texas court named prospective adoptive parents as "managing conservators" [in Michigan's parlance, the primary physical custodial parent]. Four years later, a Texas appellate court is sending the matter back to the trial court for a re-determination whether the biological father should have custody of his child instead of third parties.
Last week, while in court on another matter, I listened to oral argument in a case involving a father whose child has already been adopted -- a father who is hoping to overturn the adoption that had been granted because the mother failed to identify him at the time of the adoption in order to destroy his ability to have custody of the child she did not want, the child for whom she had arranged a private adoption.
Thus I found the article Texas Single Dad Stops Adoption; May Get Custody of his Son very interesting. As Franklin writes, "In this case, a single father actually wins a round in family court. It's not over yet, for reasons I don't understand, but read the court's opinion here and maybe you can figure it out."
"There's a good bit to chew on in the case of In the matter of Baby Boy M., A Minor. As its name suggests, this is an adoption case. Like the last adoption case out of Utah that I wrote about a few weeks ago, the facts in this case tell a lot about the depths to which some mothers will descend to keep a father from his child. Adoption agencies facilitate the mother's behavior.
"Shawn and Samantha lived together in the little Texas town of Granbury just southwest of Fort Worth. They weren't married, but they had a daughter, Kaylee in 2003. In late 2004, Samantha moved out of the house and within weeks was living with Darrell. A few months later, she announced that she was pregnant and intended to place the child for adoption. Shawn immediately told her that, if the child were his, he wanted custody and would not agree to any adoption.
"Samantha learned of a couple, Travis and Sabra Hess, who lived in Boise, Idaho, who wanted to adopt. The Hesses were using the services of LDS (think "Latter Day Saints") Family Services."
Samantha met with the adoption agency two weeks before the baby was due to be born. At that time, when asked the identity of the baby's father, Samantha acknowledged that Shawn was the father. She claimed he was not aware of her pregnancy. She was asked to provide contact information for Shawn, but Samantha said she did not know where he was. Shawn's date of birth and social security number were provided to the caseworker. Later, Samantha asked to work with a different caseworker, claiming "a personality conflict.”
Samantha next met another LDS caseworker, and her information about the identity of the baby's father was less than forthright. Shawn was located and contacted; he informed booth LDS caseworkers that he had no intention of relinquishing his parental rights if the child were his. When Shawn and his mother learned what hospital Samantha was in, they both talked to a social worker there and told her Shawn would request a DNA test to determine paternity and assert his rights.
Despite the fact that everyone involved in the case was well-informed that Shawn refused to give up his parental rights, no genetic testing was done to confirm or deny this. Thus, without the DNA testing, the baby was not given to Shawn, but was placed with the adoptive family and was taken to Idaho. Shawn was refused any information by all involved.
Shawn did not give up. He filed the correct forms with the Texas Paternity Registry within the 30 days allotted him. He talked to several attorneys, contacted the FBI and even wrote a letter to the governor.
There has been a lot of water under the legal dam as a result of delays that appear to have been caused intentionally by LDS, according to Franklin. The child is now four years old. There has been no adoption, but the trial court made the Hesses the "managing conservators." Their argument at trial was that Baby M has been with them so long, it would be psychologically harmful for his custody to be transferred to Shawn.
What a tragedy this case is -- so similar to Michigan "Baby Jessica" case. In that case, the child was given up in adoption in Iowa and taken to Michigan. Once the biological father learned that the child was his, he and the mother fought to recover the baby. Although the adoptive parents had the child for more than two and a half years, the Michigan Supreme Court eventually ruled that the child, given up without the lawful consent of her biological father, had to be returned.
The rest of Franklin's article Texas Single Dad Stops Adoption may be read on Glenn Sacks' Blog Fathers & Families here.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: November 7, 2013
To read other posts about step-parent adoptions, especially a 2013 post about a serious challenge to the lagality of these adoption that will be resolved by the Michigan Supreme Court, see the following posts:
In the Matter of AJR, a very important case that will determine the future of step-parent adoptions [See Post here]Access all step-parent adoption posts here.