SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) An Arizona man recently filed a $130 million lawsuit in Utah to get his son back and to change the way Utah handles adoptions. Today we spoke to his attorney about his attempt to change Utah's laws and end what he calls deceptive practices against birth fathers.
Adoption attorney Wesley Hutchins says the state "statue legalizes fraud. It says that if a birth mother or anyone working with her commits fraud that is not a basis for overturning an adoption."
Hutchins says Utah's adoption laws allow everyone involved to basically lie to the birth father. "A birth mother can lie. An agency can coach a mother to lie and defraud a birth father."
Hutchins is challenging the state's laws and practices with Jake Strickland. Strickland is the biological father of a baby born in December of 2010 - and given up, without his knowledge, for adoption. Strickland says he "had a nursery ready, cribs, toys, diapers, everything getting ready" and was in "complete shock" when he was told the biological mother had given up the baby for adoption. "I feel to my knees. It was devastating." Strickland says he thought, even though he and the birth mother - Whitney Pettersson Demke - had broken up, were going to raise their son. He says (and he showed us a photo of them together) they even were out together the night before the December 29th birth. "I had text messages that said we are raising this kid together - she was flat out lying."
Strickland is suing the adoptive parents, the birth mother, LDS Family Services and the attorneys involved in the adoption for $130 million. "I want to hold them accountable for what they did."
Hutchins is former president of the Utah Adoption Council. He says he resigned when he learned about what he calls the deceptive practices of some adoption agencies. "The things we learned from these interviews were disturbing. We learned agencies would coach mothers to lie to fathers - to keep them in the dark. And they would tell them don't tell him you are coming to Utah."
He and Strickland say the law in Utah that allows that deception is unconstitutional and they want it to be overturned. And they hope the massive lawsuit will finally make that happen.
ABC 4 Utah contacted LDS Family services and we wer told that because of the lawsuit they would not comment on the case at this time.
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