KUSA - Waiting is not easy.
Liz Manzanares looked over the faces of people coming through the gates at the airport.
"I don't see him," she said.
"We are right on time," her husband Bob answered.
These grandparents know what it is to wait - in a way few others do. The anticipation of what could come next has kept their family going for some 2,000 days and counting.
They were at the Albuquerque airport with a sign that reads, "Welcome Home" and gifts that are perfectly pink for their granddaughter. They have waited more than five years for the opportunity to get to know her.
"This is it. This is when she's coming!" Bob smiled.
Their son, Rob Manzanares, was set to arrive with his 5-year-old daughter. It would be the first time she's ever visited her biological family in Albuquerque.
"Rob talked to her on the phone and she was really excited to come," he said.
Liz added, "Rob was so happy when he left to Salt Lake City to pick her up," Liz said.
But something went wrong at the Airport in Utah. Rob and has daughter were going through the security line when the little girl had last minute nerves.
"As much as it broke my heart, I wanted to make sure she felt good about everything," Rob said. "She has never shown any hesitation before, so I can't help but wonder if she was coached not to come."
When Liz and Bob finally saw their son come through the airport exit, he came alone.
"I just can't understand it," he said. "Here we are again, on an emotional roller coaster."
It's something they have grown accustomed to over the years.
A welcome party had already been set up. There were purple balloons and table cloths. It is the child's favorite color. The guest of honor never got to see her princess cake or jumpy castle.
"Even though she wasn't there, in my heart she was there," Rob said.
She'll get to see the pictures one day.
Rob stood in the airport in tears.
"You fight so long for your child. You jump through every road block and try to take on an unjust system. You are disappointed over and over." He took a breath and said, "But we never give up."
Manzanares lived in Colorado in 2008 when his girlfriend traveled out of state to Utah. She had the baby there and never told Rob. She then legally signed over her rights to the infant and had her family members adopt the baby girl. That happened despite the fact that Rob had filed for his paternal rights in Colorado and had been clear that he was adamantly against adoption. He wanted to raise his daughter.
The case went to the Utah Supreme Court. It ruled the biological mom acted with "deception."
The case came back to the Colorado court system. By that time the child was 4 years old. A Colorado Judge ordered that the child be told she is adopted and meet her biological father. He ruled that Rob have shared custody with the adoptive family.
Over the last 18 months, Rob has been getting to know his daughter. She looks a lot like him.
"I've been out to Utah to see her 10 to 12 times now to spend time with her," Rob said.
This week brought another hearing in a Denver court room. The judge talked to both sides about that trip that never was. He ordered that the child must be encouraged to make the trip to spend time with her biological dad and meet her extended biological family.
Rob checked the notes he carefully took as the Judge talked.
"He said that both sides must work together to make sure this happens in the next 45 days," Rob said.
It is still moving forward. It is slow, but the case continues to move forward.
It will be more days of waiting now for a family who is sure that it will all be worth it.
"It already is," Rob said. "I fought for years just for the right to meet my biological daughter, and that has happened."
He believes more will come.
"She will see our home one day," Rob said.
Adoption law has already been changed in Utah because of the Manzanares case.
The Utah legislature passed Bill 232. It requires emotional support be part of the criteria for deciding whether a father has abandoned a child that may be placed for adoption. It is designed to help eliminate cases like this one, where fathers are lied to about the adoption so they are left out of the process and lose their legal rights.
There is also a bill that adoption agencies can no longer misappropriate facts, or information they provide to expectant mothers and adopting families.
Bill 282 will stop the process of agencies bringing women from other states into Utah so they can avoid having to get permission from the biological father. It maintains that the birth mother must have lived in Utah for at least 30 days before her partner is required to comply with specific adoption laws.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)