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Child custody: Colorado father's long odyssey nearing an end

In Colorado, child custody determinations entail making decisions about parenting plans and the respective roles of parents, with all custody-related aspects being centrally guided by consideration of what is in an affected child's best interests.

A New Mexico resident who at one time lived in Colorado is all for the formula and has become an unwitting participant in a child custody case that has spilled across state borders and embroiled courts in different jurisdictions.

Rob Manzanares seems by all indications a caring and dutiful father, even if much of his relationship with his 5-year-old daughter has been marked by separation and physical distance. Manzanares' story is a fascinating one, with implications that have reached the courts in two states and resulted in legal changes. Following is a brief description of Manzanares' legal odyssey.

Manzanares fathered his child in 2008, while living in Colorado. He did not know the details, because his girlfriend traveled to Utah and never informed him that he was a parent. Instead, she signed over custody rights of the child, with family members adopting the baby.

The problem: Manzanares was -- and continues to be -- a loving father. He filed for paternal rights in Colorado and expressed absolute opposition to his child being adopted. He wanted to be in her life as an active dad.

The matter went to trial, all the way to the Utah Supreme Court, which ruled against the mother and remanded the case to the Colorado courts. A judge ordered just last year that the child be told about her father and meet him, and mandated that Manzanares share child custody with the adoptive family.

Manzanares estimates he's been to Utah to see his daughter about 12 times. Now he's trying to get her to come visit him and his parents in New Mexico.

Utah law has changed because of Manzanares. New legislation now exists that addresses cases like his, where fathers have been lied to and/or lost their legal rights by not participating in a process of which they were unaware. Additionally, a bill has been drafted that seeks to curb adoption agencies from encouraging pregnant women to go to Utah and effect adoptions without biological fathers being informed of all material facts.

9NEWS.com, "Colorado dad faces next hurdle in custody battle," Cheryl Preheim, Aug. 11, 2013

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