Manzanares Family holding fundraiser at Fuller Lodge

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By Tris DeRoma

While Rob Manzanares, the Los Alamos resident who made national headlines recently in his quest to get his 5-year-old daughter back after his ex-girlfriend had her illegally adopted by her brother and his family, has made great strides in accomplishing his goal, his fight is still not over.

Manzanares is now preparing to mount an appeal in the Colorado courts that would eventually reunite him with his daughter permanently.

And once again, the Los Alamos community is coming to his aid. Knowing that Manzanares has invested significant amounts of money ever since his legal battles began five years ago, a group of his fellow LANL employees have set a “Frito Pie Fundraiser” and raffle event for Father’s Day to help defray some of those costs.

Called “Bring My Daughter Home,” the event will be held at the Fuller Lodge this Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Besides munching down on some Frito pies, ($5 minimum donation) there will also be chances to win raffle prizes. Two dollars for a ticket, or $6 for 10, may get you a chance to win a $50 Outback restaurant gift card or a hand-made wood bench as well as other prizes.

Money raised from the event will go toward the cost of funding Manzanares’ appeal, which is estimated to be about $10,000. If the appeal is successful, The Colorado courts will grant Manzanares full-time custody of his daughter Kaia. While Kaia’s adopted family is from Utah, Kaia was conceived in Colorado. Manzanares has already successfully established to the Utah courts that Kaia’s adoption was illegal. This latest appeal is to not only get the Colorado courts to acknowledge this, but also to reverse the Colorado’s court’s previous custody rights ruling. If successful, Manzanares will become Kaia’s sole legal parent, and Kaia’s Utah family will be granted visitation rights. Right now, the situation is the exact opposite.

Memorial Day weekend was the last time Manzanares and his family saw Kaia. They took her to Durango Colo., where Manzanares’ fiancee, Pennie, as well as their youngest son also to spend time with Kaia. Though everyone had fun walking in the parks and playing board games and watching movies, Manzanares said that wasn’t the most important thing. 

“Honestly, most of the time we just spent bonding with her, playing with dolls, playing Spiderman with her young brother and just having a good time,” Manzanares said.

He added that whatever time he’s had with Kaia, has been worth it, in spite of the five year’s accumulation of  legal and travel costs, which are significant. Manzanares’ own estimates, when he includes travel time and non-legal expenses are around $500,000.

"It's just one of those things that when you're fighting for a child, they’re unavoidable, " Manzanares  said.

 Manzanares has also set up a donation account at gofundme.com if residents want to help out that way. When you get to the page, just type “Manzanares” into the search engine and his page comes up under “Bring Kaia Home." 

There, visitors will also get to read up on what happened to Manzanares, and how, thanks to donations from friends as well as total strangers, Manzanares was able to launch and carry out a successful media and legal campaign to bring awareness not only to his situation, but to fathers across the country who also found themselves suffering similar fates.

In Manzanares’ case, his girlfriend at the time told him that she was going to visit her father in Utah. At the time she was pregnant. She gave birth in Utah, and promptly gave the girl up for adoption without Manzanares’ knowing.  So began Manzanares' five-year legal battle to get his daughter back. To get the full scope of Manzanares' legal battles, you can find out more on his Web site at illegaladoption.com

Manzanares’ attorney that will be handling the appeal, Wes Hutchins, is hoping for a positive outcome.
“Once the appeal is concluded I hope that results in Rob getting full, primary custody of his daughter, and the Byingtons, the prospective adoptive parents in Utah, would have some form of visitation,” he said. “The trouble we’re having with the initial Colorado decision is that it effectively awarded adoptive parents who committed fraud and kept his daughter tied up in litigation long enough so they were able to form a parent-child bond.”

Hutchins added that even though the Colorado courts recognized this apparent deceit, the court opted to keep Kaia with the Byingtons because of the bond.

 Manzanares said in response that he hopes the Colorado courts  will recognize that he will do what it takes to make sure the transition of Kaia from the Byingtons to his family goes as smoothly as possible, and that the move to his Los Alamos family won’t be sudden and traumatic. He said if the courts rule in his favor, he will make sure the transition takes as long as it needs to so Kaia won’t be mentally harmed.