LA man continues fight

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Court > Upcoming hearing for Manzanares may prove pivotal

By Tris DeRoma

It’s been a long five and a half years for Robert Manzanares and his daughter.

Five and a half years ago, his daughter was born, and ever since, he’s been trying to reunite with her.

Before she was even born, his ex-girlfriend went to Utah, had their baby, and then, without Manzanares’ knowledge, promptly gave it up for adoption to her brother, who lives in Utah.

Manzanares will be appearing on the Ricki Lake Show Thursday to tell her, and the world, all about it. The show airs on 3 p.m. on the Fox KASA station.

Apparently, given the nature of Utah’s adoption laws, Manzanares’ ex was able to do so without including Manzanares in the decision.

Manzanares has been fighting for the right to be a father to his daughter ever since, and it seems like his long and complicated legal battle is almost over. Recently, the state of Colorado (where he lived with his ex-girlfriend) gained jurisdiction from Utah, giving Manzanares a free path to pursue visitation rights. He has a hearing in Colorado May 1, and he hopes to gain a lot of ground when it comes to gaining visitation rights to his daughter. He’s hoping for a situation where she will be able to visit him summers and holidays.

“We got a few things done in Utah and now Colorado has full jurisdiction, so things are looking really good,” he said during an interview.

He is also happy to report that he’s even managed to modify a few of Utah’s adoption laws so hopefully nothing similar will happen to another unwed father again. Speaking about Utah’s bill SB 183 specifically, he said, “Even though it’s not exactly as Sen. (Luz) Robles and a few of us wanted it, it got pretty butchered, at least we got something in there against fraud,” he said. “That’s what’s key to these adoptions, because the biggest part of my supreme court decision is no longer can Utah allow fraud, to allow these mothers to lie to the birth fathers.”

Though the bills Utah legislators managed to pass aren’t the way he exactly wanted them, he expects future challenges to fine tune them.

“You’re going to see this is only preliminary,” he said. “You’re going to see that this will get stronger and stronger until an entire remap of Utah’s adoption laws is achieved.”

He’s a little more positive about SB 232 that says a birth mother from another state must live in Utah for at least 30 days to achieve residency.

“A mother can’t just run to Utah stay for a couple of days, have child, go back to work and act like nothing happened,” he said. “We’re getting some heat on them, that’s for sure.”

In May, he will be presenting to the courts what his position is as far as his daughter is concerned, a daughter he hasn’t seen since Dec. 21 of last year.

“I’m sure May 1 there will be an order for visitation from the judge,” said Manzanares, adding that at this point, visitation should have been occurring in New Mexico.

“Forty five to 60 days after May 1, this should all be done. After five and a half years, I will have to live with a set of court orders, and so will they.”

One thing he hopes to happen is that at some point, through the defense of his constitutional rights as the biological father, he gains primary custody of his daughter.

“I filed for paternity of my daughter before she was even born, I paid child support to the mother to pay for the pregnancy, I did everything I could to protect my constitutional rights to my daughter,” he said. “Because of my actions, there is a very good chance I could get primary care of her.”

He said telling his story on the Ricki Lake Show (taped in February 2013) was a little harder than he thought it was going to be.

“You put your heart out on the table and relive the experience,” he said of his time on the Ricki Lake show. “Retelling the story is very challenging and hard for me. It’s taken so long and is so dear to my heart that it’s devastating to know that I’ve missed so much of her life. I’ve missed her first smile, her first steps, all of the milestones in your biological child’s life. You don’t get those back.”