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Legislation setting time limits for out-of-state, unmarried fathers to fight their children's adoption in Utah passed the House Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday.
Sponsored by Rep. Ann Hardy, R-Bountiful, HB130 would give out-of-state dads 20 days after learning a mother has come to Utah to begin paternity proceedings here.
If the father doesn't find out the mother's whereabouts until after she has already consented to the adoption, he must follow the laws of the mother's home state to challenge the adoption, said attorney Larry Jenkins for the Utah Adoption Council, which is backing the bill.
Jenkins said the bill should encourage Utah adoption agencies to work to find and notify unwed, out-of-state fathers sooner by setting a fixed time frame for them to fight the adoption under Utah laws.
"What this is going to do is cause them to get that information to the birth father much sooner, in a way that if he is going to do something he has time to do it," Jenkins said.
Hardy's bill would also no longer require out-of-state parents seeking to adopt in Utah to undergo FBI criminal background checks. They could instead get checks from states or counties where they have lived in the past five years.
In other provisions: adoptions could be completed even if one of the adoptive parents dies before finalization under the bill, and the state would have to begin notifying unwed fathers when a mother withdraws her legal designation that he is the father.
"I have an adopted daughter, so I've been through the process myself and I understand the importance of having laws that are fair and equitable," said Hardy, "but also that protect all of those people that are involved in the process."
To protect rights
In Utah, unmarried fathers must take several steps to protect their rights to their children. They must:
l Begin paternity proceedings in court
l Register with the state
l Pay or be willing to pay expenses for the child.
Recent court debates have centered on whether unmarried men who live in other states but are the fathers of children born in Utah should be bound by the laws of their own home state, the mother's home state or Utah.