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A Colorado man who has been fighting in Utah courts for years to establish parental rights to his son will have to take his case to another state.
The Utah Supreme Court has ruled 5-0 that under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), Illinois is the child's home state and a court in that state has the authority to decide issues concerning paternity and custody, even though the boy was born in Utah.
The decision, issued Friday, noted the boy was placed with adoptive parents in Illinois and spent only eight days in Utah. Because the child has resided in Illinois for more than six months, that is his home state under the UCCJEA definition, the court said.
Utah also lacks jurisdiction in the case because there no significant connection between the boy and the Beehive State, according to the ruling. Neither parent lives in Utah, and the child, now almost 6 years old, has no apparent connection with the state aside from it being his birthplace and the site of the parental rights' litigation, the court said.
Writing for the court, Justice John Pearce emphasized the decision does not resolve any substantive issues in the case, just the forum where Bobby L. Nevares can seek custody of the boy.
The decision upholds the dismissal of the case by 4th District Judge Claudia Laycock, who ruled Utah does not have authority to decide the matter because none of the parties live in the state.
According to court documents, the child's birth mother became pregnant while she was in a brief relationship with Nevares in Colorado. The month before she gave birth, the mother told Nevares she was pregnant and intended to place the child for adoption.
Nevares took steps in Colorado to contest an adoption but the mother later traveled to Utah, where she gave birth Sept. 29, 2010. She placed the boy for adoption the next day through the now-defunct Adoption Center for Choice, court records say.
Nevares, who had not known of the mother's plans, filed a petition in Utah's 4th District Court two days after he learned of the birth to establish paternity, court documents say. The mother and the adoption agency argued Nevares had not established parental rights in Colorado, which they said was required by Utah law.
Laycock granted judgment in favor of the mother and adoption agency, and Nevares appealed her ruling. The Utah Supreme Court reversed that decision in February 2015, ruling the Colorado man was improperly denied an opportunity to contest the adoption.
The case went back for further proceedings to Laycock, who dismissed it in November 2015 on jurisdictional grounds, leading to another appeal by Nevares.
The adoptive parents filed an adoption action Nov. 4, 2010, in an Illinois court and got an interim custody order. The adoption case is pending, according to court records.