By Lauren DiSpirito
DENVER (CBS4)– An order issued by a Denver Juvenile Court Judge could soon mean Rob Manzanares, whose more than 8-year battle for custody of his daughter has gained national attention, is able to gain the primary parental rights he is seeking.
Earlier this month, Denver Judge D. Brett Woods issued an order barring the adoptive parents of Manzanares’ 8-year-old daughter Kaia from seeking custody again, after the Utah Supreme Court overturned their adoption in 2012.
In 2008, Kaia’s biological mother signed off on the girl’s adoption to her aunt and uncle – the mother’s brother and sister in law. The adoption was conducted in Utah, where Manzanares says only one parent has to consent to an adoption. At the time, he says he made it clear to his daughter’s mother that he did not want to proceed with adoption and was not even aware she had given birth to his daughter six weeks prematurely.
“I thought, there is no way this could happen, this is America,” Manzanares said.
Manzanares had already filed to establish paternity in Colorado, and when Utah’s Supreme Court ruled the adoption illegal, the case was returned to Denver, where he’s been fighting for custody ever since.
According to the order issued on Dec. 2, Judge Woods writes the case has been characterized as “one of deception” in which the girl’s biological mother, her brother and his wife “deliberately” and “intentionally” mislead Manzanares to plan and carry out the adoption. Both the mother and her brother “explored the possibility of inducing labor early,” the order states.
Manzanares’ attorney, Michael Cheroutes, says the order has the potential to set precedent in other custody cases.
“This gives fathers a way to ask the court to look back and where that initial custody, where that initial possession of the child was gained through deceit or wrongful act, it gives the dads something they can do about it.” He added, “This order essentially says if you are going to take possession of a child in a wrongful way, through deception, through a wrongful act, you can’t be rewarded for that, we’re not going to give you custody.”
“I just could not believe that everything is going to go my direction and my daughter’s going to come home. I’m just in shock,” said Manzanares. “I want my daughter to have stability, to have a stable family and things in place for her to heal, so I want her to come home.”
Next, Manzanares will return to a Denver courtroom on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. to set a hearing date to determine who gets primary parental time and decision making rights.
“She’s just a happy, strong-willed, go-lucky child. She loves dolls, sports, soccer, ice skating, she’s a normal 8-year-old,” said Manzanares.
Kaia’s biological mother can ask for custody, but Manzanares says now, he feels strongly that he has a good chance of being awarded primary custody in the case.
CBS4 reached out to attorneys representing other sides in the case, but so far, has not heard back.
“I really hope we bring some light to this fight and really do what’s right for children… never give up,” said Manzanares.