SALT LAKE CITY, UT (KSTU/CNN) – Breaking into tears, Colby Nielsen said watching his baby girl being taken away was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.
“I couldn’t even get her out of her car seat,” he said.
Kaylee was born Nov. 4. Since then, the 20-year-old father never left her side – until he was forced to give her to adoptive parents this week, after Kaylee’s mother decided to put her up for adoption.
“My favorite moment is when she would just lay on my chest and we would watch TV and she just slept,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen’s lawyer said a technical reading of the Utah adoption law allows biological mothers to put their babies up for adoption without notifying the biological father.
“They took this man’s daughter without his knowledge or consent. That is essentially, by definition, stealing,” said Wes Hutchins, Nielsen’s attorney.
In order to keep Kaylee, Nielsen needed to file paternity action, an affidavit and a commencement notice with Utah’s vital records a day before the mother signed the adoption papers, relinquishing her rights. But in his case, the mother only gave him a few hours notice of what she was going to do.
Utah Sen. Todd Weiler called this an unfortunate situation, but he said this is the way it has been for unmarried fathers in Utah for decades.
“In this case, it’s a heartbreaking story, but a simple Google search would’ve told the father the steps he needed to take,” Weiler said.
But Nielsen’s lawyer said the law is unconstitutional.
“A statute that allows this to happen is skewed against biological fathers,” Hutchins said.
Nielsen said his girlfriend was influenced by her religious parents, who were upset that the child had been born out of wedlock. Even though he thought he had convinced her to let him raise Kaylee on his own, she ended up signing the adoption papers, relinquishing her rights to a couple that is friends with her parents.
Nielsen’s lawyer is confident his client will get Kaylee back, either by changing the legislation by proposing amendments, or taking this case all the way to the Supreme Court.
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