Ramsey Shaud admits the circumstances were not perfect. He wasn’t even sure he loved Shasta B. Tew.
Still, when Shaud learned in 2009 that Tew was pregnant as a result of their casual relationship but didn’t want to be a mother, he stepped up.
Shaud told Tew he wanted to be a dad and would raise the child, with help from his family.
But Tew, then 19, apparently didn’t like that idea and, as she began pursuing adoptive parents for the coming baby, Shaud moved quickly to protect his parental rights. Shaud, who was 22, learned he needed to sign with the Putative Father Registry in Florida, their home state, so he would be notified of any proposed adoption. It turned out to be a simple process: He printed out a form he found online and sent it in, along with the $20 filing fee.
Five months later, Tew’s mother hand-delivered to Shaud a terse three-line note about his ex-girlfriend’s plan to visit Arizona and Utah for the holidays. Shaud feared — rightfully, he says — that the real intent of the trip west was to give birth in a state where he was less likely to be able to assert any claim to the child.
That same day, Shaud had no trouble finding a form for Arizona’s registry online; he printed it, filled it out and mailed it in. But despite hours spent dissecting the Utah Department of Health’s website, which he figured was the logical place to look, Shaud was unable to locate a similar form or information about what he needed to do here.
That’s because Utah, unlike most states with registries aimed at unmarried fathers, doesn’t make a form or directions on how to proceed available online. In fact, the phrase "putative father," used in state law to describe an unwed biological father, isn’t mentioned anywhere on the websites of the health department or Office of Vital Records and Statistics, the agency charged with maintaining Utah’s registry. Utah law requires that forms be made available through local health departments, but office policy is not to do so, according to Director Janice Houston.
"The state makes the form available at the [Utah] Department of Health, but you have to pick it up in person, which is impossible for a father who lives out of state," said Joshua Peterman, an attorney who has three active cases involving unmarried fathers.
Shaud, a resident of Crestview, Fla., is one of a string of men who say Utah intentionally makes it difficult to protect their rights when they oppose adoption.In fact, unmarried fathers face a hodgepodge of approaches across the country regarding their rights. A Salt Lake Tribune review found Utah is not the only state where determining how to protect those rights is difficult — a problem some experts say would be solved by creating a national putative-father registry.
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