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Utah Supreme Court Case Challenges Constitutionality of State’s Adoption Laws

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Salt Lake Tribune

The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on the appeal of Christopher Carlton, a Pennsylvania man whose baby was given up for adoption in Utah against his will. 

Carlton’s lawyer Wesley Hutchins argued that it is unconstitutional to apply Utah adoption deadlines to his client, who lives in Pennsylvania. Hutchins says his client did not have a meaningful opportunity to assert his parental rights. He had no way of knowing that his child was being put up for adoption out of state, since the child’s mother lied and told him the baby had died. By the time he learned the truth, it was too late. 

“Utah has tried to apply a law that doesn’t apply to him because he’s a nonresident,” said Hutchins. “The bottom line is which law applies - Utah or Pennsylvania?”

Attorney Larry Jenkins represented the Adoption Center of Choice – which put Carlton’s baby up for adoption. Jenkins maintained that Carlton did not establish his parental rights in Utah under the schedule required, neither did he register as the father in Pennsylvania within the timeframe required under Utah law. After the hearing, Christopher Carlton expressed exasperation with Utah laws, as the process has gone on for more than 2 years. 

“I don’t understand it.  These people’s laws are upside down,” said Carlton. “Somebody like myself has been praying to get here today to show these people that not everybody’s going to take it. I’m going to fight until the end, until this is done.”

The end may be months if not years away. If the Supreme Court rules in Carlton’s favor, the case will go back to trial court where he could assert paternity rights and argue for custody.

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