Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The LDS State of Utah Versus Father's Rights, Again!

'Baby Emma' case puts state adoption laws between father, child
John Wyatt has photographs of Baby Emma from four to seven months old. He is in a custody battle to get his biological daughter, who was taken to Utah and lives with adoptive parents.
(Katherine Frey - The Washington Post)

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

John Wyatt raced to the hospital, excited to be a father but worried about the mother.

His girlfriend had promised to call him the moment she went into labor, but she'd turned off her cellphone. Wyatt had been calling it for hours. Finally, an operator at Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge confirmed the news: His girlfriend was there, and his daughter had been born.

When Wyatt arrived at the hospital that morning of Feb. 11, 2009, he got the shock of his 20-year-old life: Administrators insisted that no such baby was there -- and no such mother.

Court records show that Wyatt's daughter, Emma, was born Feb. 10, at that very hospital, and that she spent the next week at two Woodbridge hotels before being put up for adoption -- in Utah. "We just want Emma to come home," says Wyatt's mother, Jeri. "My son wants his child. I want to see my granddaughter."

More than a year later, a cross-country court fight over the child known as "Baby Emma" has yet to settle the question of whether the strawberry-blond, blue-eyed girl was illegitimately taken from her father or legally put up for adoption by her mother, 20-year-old Emily Colleen Fahland, a George Mason University student. The highly unusual dispute pits Virginia against Utah; a Stafford County judge in December awarded Wyatt custody of Emma and cited a federal kidnapping statute in ordering the state to bring her back from Utah.

Virginia officials say they lack the legal authority to follow the judge's order.

In Salt Lake City, a Utah judge issued a competing order granting temporary custody to the adoptive couple in that state, and Emma has been living with them ever since. Attorneys for the couple say Wyatt, of Dumfries, failed to assert his parental rights in time to contest the adoption. His appeal is pending in a Utah court.

"My daughter is being held hostage," says Wyatt, now 21, a D.C. nightclub worker who has never seen Emma. "She was kidnapped and cradle-robbed from me, and I'm baffled that nothing has been done."

The case, which has become the talk of the nation's close-knit circle of adoption lawyers since the Wyatts appeared on the "Dr. Phil" show, is the latest to spotlight Utah adoption laws that experts say are unusually tough on unmarried fathers. Lawyers cite at least 10 recent cases in which babies were taken to or born in Utah and adopted without an out-of-state father's consent.

In one case, the Utah Supreme Court last year ruled in favor of an unwed Wyoming mother who falsely told the father she miscarried, traveled to Utah to deliver the baby girl and put her up for adoption. "Utah risks becoming a magnet for those seeking to unfairly cut off opportunities for biological fathers to assert their rights to connection with their children," Chief Justice Christine Durham wrote in dissent.

Joan Hollinger, a University of California at Berkeley professor and a leading authority on adoption law, called Utah's decisions in the Baby Emma case "outrageous" because Wyatt filed for custody in Virginia just eight days after Emma's birth. Utah laws and court decisions, she said, "make it virtually impossible for an out-of-state father to prevent the adoption of an out-of-wedlock child when the mother is determined to go forward."

Utah is culturally conservative, and lawyers say the powerful Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with its emphasis on family values, has strongly encouraged adoption-friendly laws. "The Utah statutes can be harsh, but they are looking at what's best for the child: stable placements and two-parent families," said David Hardy, a lawyer for LDS Family Services, a Mormon Church-affiliated adoption agency that is among the nation's largest.

Text message disputed

The adoptive couple in Utah, Thomas and Chandra Zarembinski, could not be located, but their attorney, Larry Jenkins, said the experience has been "gut-wrenching" for them. "They're the only parents this child has ever known," said Jenkins, who added that Emma "is doing extremely well."

Emma's birth mother, Fahland, did not return repeated telephone calls. Fahland's attorney, Sharon Fast Gustafson, said Fahland believed at first that adoption "was the right thing for this child. She was single, planning to go to college, and she and the father did not have long-term plans."

In recent months, Fahland has come to regret that decision, Gustafson said. Still friends with Wyatt, Fahland "sees this father who is wishing she hadn't done it," Gustafson said.

Wyatt still remembers Fahland from second grade. They attended Saint William of York Catholic School in Stafford together, and they began dating in seventh grade. The relationship continued, off and on, through high school.

The surprise pregnancy came in May 2008. "She started crying, but I was happy," Wyatt said. "My father died when I was 10, so I've always wanted to be there for my children."

Wyatt argued vehemently against Fahland's decision to put the baby up for adoption. The couple talked of raising the child together and, eventually, getting married, Wyatt said.

On Feb. 5, 2009, Fahland sent Wyatt a text message that has become central in the dispute. Wyatt recalls that Fahland texted him that she was "receiving information" from a Utah adoption agency. He immediately called her, and says she assured him that they would make a decision jointly -- and that she'd alert him the minute she went into labor.

In their final conversation, about 11 hours before the birth, Wyatt says, Fahland vowed they would raise the baby together. Gustafson declined to comment on what Fahland said.

"She did not feel she could give the baby what the baby needed," Gustafson said. "And she didn't think John could either. These are very emotionally charged hours when a baby is born. People are having to work hard to make an immediate decision. She was just thinking about what was best for the baby."

In the Utah courts, Fahland said in an affidavit that she told Wyatt in the Feb. 5 text that she "intended" to put the baby up for adoption in Utah. Jenkins, the Zarembinskis' attorney, said that gave Wyatt time to file a court action in Utah that could have allowed him to contest the adoption. "Frankly, he never did," Jenkins said.

On the morning of Feb. 11, Wyatt awoke early and sensed something was wrong -- Fahland's cellphone had been off throughout the previous day. A few hours later, according to Wyatt and his mother, the switchboard operator at Potomac Hospital identified Fahland as a patient and said she'd delivered a baby girl.

Shocked that hospital administrators later denied that, Wyatt called his mother. She raced to the hospital, too, and threatened to sue when the hospital told her the same thing. "They were hiding this baby from us," Jeri Wyatt said. "They looked us in the eye and said there was no baby or birth mother there."

Charlene Wilkins, a spokeswoman for the hospital -- now called Sentara Potomac Hospital -- declined to comment, citing patient confidentiality and the legal dispute. The hospital has not been sued. In documents given to Wyatt's attorneys during pretrial discovery, Fahland said Emma was born at Potomac Hospital at 11:02 a.m. Feb. 10.

Differing guidelines

Fahland and the baby spent Feb. 11 and 12 at the Fairfield Inn in Woodbridge along with an employee of A Act of Love, the Utah adoption agency, court documents show. Fahland signed the adoption consent forms Feb. 12 in the presence of that employee, Laraine Moon. The agency did not return telephone calls, and it is unclear how or when the agency got involved with Fahland.

Court records show that the Zarembinskis cared for Emma at a hotel in Woodbridge before flying her to Utah.

On Feb. 18, Wyatt sued for custody in Stafford County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. His lawyer had officially learned of the baby from Fahland's lawyer. "I found out I had a daughter through word-of-mouth," Wyatt said.

In his December order granting custody, Judge Gerald F. Daltan said that because Wyatt is Emma's "acknowledged father" and had sought custody five days before the Zarembinskis filed adoption papers in Utah, Emma could not be adopted without his consent. He called Wyatt "a good and decent person" who is fit to raise Emma.

But a judge in Utah granted the Zarembinskis temporary custody in August while the adoption proceeds. And the same judge ruled that Wyatt cannot object to the adoption, partly because he failed to move quickly enough to assert his parental rights under Virginia law -- even though the Virginia judge said he had.

"That's the problem with this case," said Wyatt's Virginia attorney, Stanton Phillips. "Virginia does one thing, and Utah does something else and thumbs its nose at Virginia. Since the child is in Utah, John is really stuck."

The Utah Court of Appeals will hear arguments May 24.

Wyatt continues his fight. That included the appearance on "Dr. Phil" in December. Wyatt's mother started that process by clicking on a link on the show's Web site soliciting viewers with adoption stories to tell. The show contacted her, and she and Wyatt appeared with the Zarembinskis' attorney.

"The only thing that keeps me going," Wyatt said, "is knowing that one day I will get to see and hold my beautiful daughter."


Anonymous said...

Mr. Wyatt should be granted full sole custody of his daughter, Emma, and the birth mother should be ashamed of herself. She purposely decieved Mr. Wyatt and lied to him. This is another reason the Mormon's should not be involved in state adoption matters. The LDS have their OWN adoption agency, and it is a faith based religious organization. They should stay out of state matters. It is a world known fact that Utah does the most adoptions, and most of the parents are LDS. This father was purposely left out of the adoption process, WANTED to be a father, and was ultimately decieved in the end and now is in a court battle to get his Emma back. Adoption laws need to be revamped.

Anonymous said...

This is when the Federal government should step in. Every state should have the same laws reguarding adoption.

Von said...

Disgraceful situation.Adoption laws need changing and some federal system set up whereby fathers get a better hearing.

Anonymous said...

I think the Zarembinskis should be ashamed of themselzes. To try to plead their case by saying they are the only parent's the baby has ever known ? Well - that's because they kidnapped her. Should we let every kidnapper of a small child keep the child because they are the only parent's the baby has ever known - NO, I think the entire nation would yell a resounding NO to that one. They should know if you have to hide what you are doing - then what you are doing is probably wrong.

I don't see how this is any different than human trafficking. If this mother had sold her baby to Thailand everyone would be up in arms, but because she SOLD her baby to Utah, that make it ok? I don't think so. I would like to see this go federal.

Mirah Riben said...

Check out this Facebook group:
Tell Utah to Stop Stealing Children From Their Fathers!!/group.php?gid=114683698551504

Anonymous said...

Due to the internet, this is an international story.
Most importantly, Emma will easily learn that the world watched as the Zarembinskis choose to keep her from her father.
Emma will know that the Zarembinskis were well aware of her father's intentions and actions from the moment of her birth, and that the Zarembinskis denied Emma her birthright.
Before beginning an adoption process, the Zarembinskis and their attorney had a moral obligation to be certain that the birth father had adequate notice---this is usually a legal requirement.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is any question that the biological father should have his baby back. The adoptive parents took a newborn, knowing that there wasn't any father consent, simply because they were depending on Utah's unfair laws to aid them in 'kidnapping' the baby from her dad. The fact that they've had her for a year, and she has bonded to them should not play into it, any more than a kidnapper should have rights to a child.
I hope the federal government can step in, restore this child to her dad quickly and then make a national law to protect father's rights.
Shame on the birth mom,the adoptive couple, Utah's crazy adoption laws, and the adoption agency. Finding homes for unwanted babies is one thing, but taking them from a parent who wants them is criminal.

Lydia, mom of three

Anonymous said...

You can tell Tom and Chandra what you think about the baby they stole:

Glycosan BioSystems, Inc

675 Arapeen Drive, Suite 302
Salt Lake City, UT 84108

Phone: (801) 583-8212
Fax: (801) 588-0497
If he doesn't reply:

Business Development:
Technical Support:

Apparently, someone named Chandra Zarembenski works as VP of Client Operations at National Benefit Alliance, Greater Salt Lake City Area.

You can find them at Salt Lake City – Corporate Office
7090 Union Park Ave, Suite 400
Midvale, UT 84047
T. (800) 390-1224
F. (800) 511-2124

Mark any faxes “Attention: Baby thief.”

Elizabeth O. McBride said...

As an adoptive parent I feel strongly this child belongs with her father. Fathers' rights cannot be ignored. Emma will come to hate these adopters once she learns she was taken against her father's wishes.

Anonymous said...

They (the kidnappers pretending to be "adoptive parents") disgust me beyond words. As they will Emma if they are allowed to prevail in this kidnapping. One day she will know...and then the child they CLAIMED to love so much will feel the worst kind of hatred and anger toward them. They are selfish beyond words.

Anonymous said...

The article, while it may have the correct conclusion as to where the baby should be--has bigoted comments about a religion that is not involved in this adoption. Utah is not entirely mormon and the agency is not a mormon adoption agency. I don't judge Catholicism or other religions by the acts of a single member or a state government. You shouldn't either.

Anonymous said...

LDS Social Services is just as deeply embedded in this child trafficking ring/scamming as any private adoption agency. One thing is clear, Utah IS the adoption/scam/child trafficking capital of the USA.

Govt issued award money must be also be removed from the equation of adoptions and foster care. The federal reward funds to DCFS are the motive for the child trafficking just as adopting parents paying is just as much of a motive for child trafficking.

Tom M said...

The mother committed fraud, the adoption agency and hospital committed fraud, the prosecutor is guilty of fraud for refusing to make this the biggest example case of child trafficking and kidnapping. And YES, the LDS Church does very often take part in child trafficking VERY much the same as this case. A whole lot of people and entities need to be sued and also taken to criminal court. But, how can that happen when the courts and prosecutors are the worst in human trafficking crime ring?

Tom M said...

I believe that the thousands of well meaning adoptive parents who become ensnared in these crime ring human trafficking adoptions are victims too. BUT, those adoptive parents CAN become accomplices when they find out they have been victimized but they chose to then keep participating in the crime. these adoptive parents are no longer primarily victims of this crime but are now accomplices and criminals along with the human trafficking ring officials.

Mirah Riben said...

Tom - that is so right on! A quotable comment fitting for many situations in adoption both domestic and international.

I will save your words and I WILL quote them!

Anonymous said...

my heart goes to Wyatt and his baby angel girl Emma wyatt. I truly believe that this couple knew that her biological father wanted his litle girl and was not going to let them take her, that is why they kidnaped her from the hospital before he got there, or...perhapes they did it while they were still there?????
The hospital a is as guilty as them for lying to this desperate father who was searching for his daughter. How can this people even hold this baby that does not belong to them and feel no remores, it makes me sick to know that some people are so selfish and don't care to destroy a babies life by their selfih actions. When this lil angel girl is old enough to understand; (and I know that she will know of her kidnaping and the heartache and fight of her true daddy to bring her home where she belongs). how is she going to feel about this people? is she going to love them? be thankful to them for depriving her from having her daddy wyatt with her and the good memories of her first couple of years? This couple ought to be ashame of their self and have some dignity and self respect and returned this baby to her father. This act of love agency needs to change their name to love of money agency, as that what it all comes down to. This is not an act of love!!!!! is a hurtful act, an act of selfihness, manipulation, control and greed etc. in everyones part including the judge, attorney hospital and the adapting couple.
There are so many other babies that neither the father nor mother want, why not adopt one of them, then you mrealy be doing an act of love and a godly deed. This is not godly is the oposit of it.
As i said, i believe that the adapting couple had knowledge that the bio father of baby angel girl EMMA WYATT wanted her, they were not ignorant to the situation. Okey, lets give them the benifit of a dougth and say they did not know (even dough i am sure they did!) They found out few days later, why did they not do the rightful thing and returned the baby to her father...this tells me that they don't really love this baby nor are theynthinking about baby emma WYATT, they are thinking about themself, now is more of an pridem thing. How can this social, financial stablish, respectful??, selfish couple give into or loose to a single, young, nightclub worker who loves his lil baby girl so much tha is doing what ever he can to get her back?.. I honestly believe that he is what is best for "babay EMMA WYATT". He is a honest hard working young man that is doing against all adds and doing everything in his power to get what rightfuly belongs to him, his own flesh and blood baby girl. This young men has more integrety and selfrespect than anyone else. Mr. Wyatt our prayers are with you and your lil baby girl Emma Wyatt, I pray that that GOD send the help that you need and give you divine favor with those in authoraty so that baby angel Emma (your daughter) can come home where she belongs, where she should've been in the firs place, not in some strange place with some atrangers.
GOD bless you guide you and strengthen you.

Nathan Abbey said...

Can someone please contact the FBI regarding this and continue to contact media and Virginia police department.
A warrant should be issued in the state of Virginia for all those involved.
This childs safety is at risk.
If you live in any state in America please speak to your local police and ask them that the Zarembinski's have a warrant for there arrest in your state also.

I lost my wallet overseas once. And I felt the greatest feeling in the world that people helped me return my wallet and it still had all the money and everything in it.

Imagine how John Wyatt will feel towards the world when his child is returned safely.
It is not only an act of kindness for us to help him but it is also our duty as human beings to keep the fight going till his child is returned and after that we need to keep the fight going that this situation NEVER happens again!

It has happenned many many many times with the Mormons.

Seeing as there is only 5 million of them please do not worry! There is 1 billion Catholics that do not agree with this adoption.

Any many other religions that do not agree with this either.

Anonymous said...

These are two FBI agents that are looking into corruption in the state of Virginia
(family courts) and other matters.
Special Agent Clayton: 202.278.2000
Special Agent Michael Worth: 202.278.2000
and contact: Barbara F. Hollingsworth, Local Opinion Editor, for The Washington Examiner:
E-mail: Phone: 202.459.4945
or Fax: 202.459.4994 she has written several articles about DHS/CPS Arlington, Co. Va. taking
children without just cause and attacking families that don't have the financial means, to fight to keep their children from being put in foster care and then adoption. and federal funds are being used to corrupt the Family Court system. Please help any way you can!

Anonymous said...

I saw this story on Dateline and am so angry about this. Baby Emma was KIDNAPPED! If you feel the same way, please reach out to your own representatives and for more contacts. This is sick.

Mirah Riben said...

I have issues with this proposed well-meaning legislation. It aims to close the door after the horse is out. Father's need more protection BEFORE their children are allowed to be adopted without their consent. We need to stop Putative Fathers registries and other practices that ride rough shot on father's rights.

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