KUSA - A Dad from Colorado has been waiting for a custody decision for six years. The length of time is one of the primary reason the decision is not what he hoped for. Rob Manzanaras' fight for his biological daughter started before she was born.
The biological mom went to Utah to let a family member adopt the baby without his consent. A Utah Supreme Court justice called it "fraud."
Still, a judge in Colorado ruled there will be joint custody in the case. The adoptive parents in Utah will have primary custody.
Manzanaras says his daughter is the one who has been hurt the most. She didn't know she was adopted until a judge ordered she be told Manzanares is her birth father. Regular meetings were set up through the court.
The little girl, who from an infant to a 6-year-old, was at the center of a tug of war that would shape the future of many biological fathers in the country.
The judge talked about "psychological parents," referring to the couple who has raised her since birth, and the "legal parents." Rob Manzanares is the legal father. He is on the birth certificate. He never wanted or agreed to the adoption.
"I felt stripped of what should have never been taken away from me in the first place," Manzanares said.
The length of time the case has been tied up in court was a factor. The judge talked about considering the "child's perspective." They adoptive family is the only family she has lived with and there was testimony that she is very attached to her adoptive mom.
While the adoptive family will have primary custody, the biological father, Manzanares, will have regular visitation.
"I'm happy that I get to be part of my daughter's life," he said. "She'll have summers and holidays with me and I will make a lot of trips to Utah to visit her."
Still, he says he is discouraged.
"It's not the fact that we share custody, but the bigger issue of allowing cases to be tied up for six years in the legal system," he said. "They should be returned as infants."
"This decision is dangerous for other biological fathers fighting for their parental rights," Utah lawyer Wes Hutchins said.
He is representing Manzanares and a group of more than a dozen other biological fathers who are suing the Utah Attorney General's Office, accusing it of allowing adoption agencies to use practices that were not ethical and even criminal.
"This decision essentially allows adoptive parents to maintain or keep their ill gotten gains, the child that they took, under unethical if not illegal circumstances," Hutchins remarked.
The biological mom in this case has always maintained she did what was in the best interest of her baby.
Manazanares is considering an appeal.