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Paternity in Utah–Epilogue

So you may remember Parts 1 and Deux of this blog’s discussion of paternity law in Utah.  I discussed the issues surrounding the law within the context of this big, ugly paternity case that I started working on in August of 2010.  It is finally over.  It came out at the district court level in the only way it possibly could, based on the controlling case law:  we lost.

You may also recall from the Part Deux posting that we had intended to appeal that decision if we lost; the firm I worked through on the case and I had offered the client to handle the work on the appeal for free, and he was all for it. Until… until the entry of the final order dragged on, and on…

The evidentiary hearing on this case was held on September 2, 2011.  A memorandum order from that hearing was issued by the judge on September 12, 2011–that was where the holding/ruling/outcome of the hearing was given to us.  Counsel for Mom and Husband was ordered to produce Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and an Order that both reflected what had been said by the judge within the memorandum order.  The Findings document was incredibly abbreviated by opposing counsel, and we negotiated the form for the month of October, before counsel submitted it to the court in November and I filed an objection to it with the court.  We won on that one.  Then opposing party filed a motion requesting that my client pay all their attorneys fees.  We filed our objection to that as well.  We won on that one as well.

By the time we got those two procedural battles out of the way, it was February of 2012.  We had Findings and an Order that we all agreed upon (meaning, we all agreed that the documents said what the judge had said in his memorandum order).  The attorney for Mom and Husband submitted the Order to the court for a signature by the judge.  And we waited.  And waited…

In April, when we STILL didn’t have an order signed by the judge, the other attorney called the court.  They have been transitioning between paper filing and electronic filing, and they LOST IT.  The court Lost the Order.  So I re-approved it, and counsel re-submitted it.

The Order and Findings were finally signed by the judge on May 1, 2012–fully 8 MONTHS from the date of the evidentiary hearing.  You can’t appeal the outcome of a case until you have a final order to appeal from, which means that for 8 months Dad was getting sick and tired and TIRED of the whole case…and I can’t really blame him.

Dad opted not to appeal.  At this point, even if he won on an appeal to the Utah Supreme Court (which would take years to get to), it would mean nothing in a practical sense to him–best case scenario for him would be that we get the Pearson case (see the previous blog posts on Paternity to find out what that means if you don’t already) overturned and get to go BACK to the district court level and start all over again with a child custody and visitation case.  And by then, the child who was the subject of the whole thing could very likely be in elementary school…not an age at which the court would think it is in the child’s best interest to  introduce a “new dad” to him.

The unfortunate thing here in terms of the law is that Pearson will continue to be the controlling case law in cases like this.  I hate that.  It’s a case that ignores Utah Law ON PURPOSE, by the highest court in our state, which I find offensive.  The statutory law is hard enough on unmarried fathers without the court taking away all of the small allowances that the statute DOES make for getting a biological father legal status as a his kid’s dad when he is not married to the mother.

So quite unfortunately, the Utah Supreme Court will have to wait longer for its “showdown of better prepared litigants.”  Because this litigant has been completely exhausted by the system.

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