Robert Manzanares: A Father's Limitless Love and Battle for His Girl

Victory in Sight Years of Legal Battling

It’s been a long, hard-fought, grueling eight-year legal battle involving courts in two states. I first covered it on Huffington Post, November, 2015. The case gained national attention and has cost Robert Manzanares hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he would never have given up on his precious daughter, Kaia, and would do it all over again!

And now it finally seems that the daughter Rob wanted from the moment of conception will indeed get to have the love and care of her father, and live happily ever after with him and her six-year-old half-brother. A parenting plan is in the works, and now Rob wants to continue to help other fathers who are faced with similar, seemingly unsurmountable challenges to maintain their paternal rights in a social and legal climate that favors adoption over their constitutional rights as parents.

It’s mind boggling that a 39-year-old married man, employed by the Federal Government and holding top secret clearance, who is a Big Brother to troubled teens and coaches soccer and basketball - a man who wanted the child whose mother did not want, and was certainly fit and able to provide for all her needs - would not have simply been given custody of her. It’s incomprehensible and unconscionable that this can happen to a perfectly fit parent in the United States of America.

Rob saw Kaia when she was 10 months-old and then went years without seeing the child he was fighting for. She was almost six before she saw her father again.

Although Rob’s daughter was born in 2008, visitations did not commence until 2014. He lost the first six years of her life and their severed relationship required reunification therapy with the therapist who had helped Elizabeth Smart reunify with her parents after she was kidnapped, because indeed Kaia had been stolen from her father through deceit and fraud.

In order to understand why, one needs to look beyond Rob’s individual case and understand how and why adoption presents multiple challenges for fathers (and in some cases mothers). See coverage mothers battling to overturn adoptions here and here.

The judgmental attitudes that once ostracized single “unwed” mothers as unfit, have taken punitive moral aim instead at unmarried fathers with states creating obstacles such as requiring unmarried men to register their intent before they might even know of a pregnancy, much less a child. These Putative Father Registries have placed undue restrictions on men who are in the military or whose girlfriends lie to them, as was the case with Rob.

Another obstacle is the fact that a baby whose mother wants him or her adopted is a high-priced, much sought-after commodity. There is enormous demand for babies for adoption and the huge fees attorneys and adoption facilitators earn by arranging the adoption. Once greedy baby brokers get their hands on a mother who is willing to relinquish her rights to her child which will garner them hundreds of thousands of dollars, fathers are seen as nuisance, an impediment to closing the deal.

Many unscrupulous baby brokers instruct mothers to claim that the father is “unknown.” In Utah, where only one parent has to consent to an adoption, it is a common practice to advise the mothers to mislead their baby’s father about their due date, to not reveal that they are in in Utah, and/or to pretend that they miscarried. If the father doesn’t know in what state the mother is giving birth, he cannot file his intentions in that state’s courts.

Finally, prospective adoptive parents and their attorneys count on the likelihood that few fathers would have the wherewithal and stamina to maintain such a lengthy and costly legal battle.

The records prove unequivocally that Rob consistently opposed any plans to allow his daughter to be adopted and consistently expressed his desire to raise his daughter. But the child’s mother lied and intentionally deceived, as evidenced by emails. Carie, in fact, testified that she intentionally kept Rob in the dark about her plans to give their child to her brother and his wife to raise, and lied about her reason for traveling from Colorado where the couple had lived together to Utah. She also told him in an email that she planned to return to Colorado, at which time they could talk about plans for their baby. All of these statements were lies.

The courts determined that Carie further committed fraud on Feb. 20, 2008, when a hearing was set in the District Court of Denver. Carie called the court in Denver that day asking for a continuation because she was in Utah visiting her ill father. In fact, however, she was at the Utah District Court filing for the child’s adoption by her brother and sister-in-law 15 minutes after she made that phone call.

Rob had no idea that his daughter had been born two days earlier, on February 17, 2008, five weeks prematurely, and was alone in a perinatal care unit in Sandy, Utah.

Carie executed the consent to adoption in Utah without informing the judge of the Colorado proceeding, or that her child’s father was opposed to the adoption.

Rob did everything right and nothing wrong, paying support to help with doctor bills and other expenses totaling more than $2500, and kept in contact via email, inquiring about their “unborn” child, an important fact in establishing paternal rights for unmarried fathers. Yet he was kept from his daughter for eight long years.

In 2012, the Utah Supreme Court dismissed the adoption because of fraud on the part of Carie, her brother, and his wife. Yet appeals allowed this child’s life to be held in limbo for four more years after that decision. Rob had already filed to establish paternity in Colorado, and when Utah’s Supreme Court ruled the adoption illegal, the case was returned to Denver, where it has taken an additional four years to meander through the courts there.

All of this time, Rob ‘s daughter has lived with her aunt and uncle who were pursuing her adoption, and since 2014 she has visited her dad and stepbrother five weeks in the summer and every other winter break, Thanksgiving, spring break, and one weekend a month.

On December 2, 2016, the Juvenile Court of Denver, where the matter was remanded from the Colorado Court of Appeals, issued an order barring the prospective adoptive parents from seeking custody again, inasmuch as the Utah Supreme Court had overturned their adoption in 2012. Denver judge D. Brett Woods ordered a new parenting plan.

The judge’s ruling called the case one of “deception” in which the girl’s biological mother, her brother, and his wife “deliberately” and “intentionally” misled the father in order to plan and carry out the adoption, going as far as “explor[ing] the possibility of inducing labor early,” the order states.

Rob’s attorney, Michael Cheroutes, says the order has the potential to set precedent in other custody cases.

Cheroutes states: “This gives fathers a way to ask the court to look back, and where that initial possession of the child was gained through deceit or wrongful act, it gives the dads something they can do about it. This order essentially says if you are going to take possession of a child in a wrongful way, through deception, through a wrongful act, you can’t be rewarded for that, we’re not going to give you custody.”

Rob, who describes Kaia as a “happy, strong-willed, go-lucky child. She loves dolls, sports, soccer, ice skating. … a normal 8-year-old,” says he is still in shock and just wants his daughter “to have stability, to have a stable family and things in place for her to heal, so I want her to come home.”

The child’s aunt and uncle, the prospective adopters, known in court as “the Intervenors,” are now “out of the loop,” according to Rob’s attorney. There will now be a hearing between Rob and Carie. While Carie can seek custody, Rob feels strongly that he has a good chance of being awarded primary custody because of the geographical distance between them and Carie having relinquished her parental rights.

The order allows Carie to request that any parenting time she is granted be allotted to the “intervenors,” who have had a close relationship with Kaia.

Rob’s motto is: “Fatherhood starts at Conception and Never Ends!” He has become a champion for father’s rights and is well versed on the state laws on paternity and putative father registries. His advice for any man faced with a similar challenge is to never give up.

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