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Utah governor signs bill to beef up adoption rules

SALT LAKE CITY — Single mothers will no longer be able to travel to Utah to put up children for adoption without first notifying their children’s fathers now that state legislators have changed a law that critics said cleared a path for kidnapping and fraud.

The measure’s sponsor says the revision will allow responsible fathers to challenge adoptions, giving them a chance to remain in their children’s lives.

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‘‘We’re trying to throw a speed bump into that process,’’ Republican state Senator Todd Weiler, who sponsored the proposal, said Wednesday.

The law aims to cut down on cases such as last year’s battle involving a drill sergeant from North Carolina who gained custody of his infant daughter after he said his ex-wife traveled to Utah, gave birth, and placed the newborn up for adoption without his knowledge.

Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, signed the measure Tuesday, weeks after a Utah Supreme Court ruling sided with a Pennsylvania father challenging the Utah Adoption Act as unconstitutional after saying his ex-girlfriend turned their baby over to an adoption agency without telling him.

As that case heads back to a lower court, a separate lawsuit involving that man and 11 other fathers fighting previous law is pending in federal court.

The new legislation takes effect next month and would render moot portions of the lawsuits that seek to overturn the state’s adoption regulations. The courts could still, however, award financial damages to the affected fathers, who aren’t seeking custody.

The new law only applies to unwed mothers, because married women must already tell the fathers if they plan to place up a child for adoption. It does not impose any penalties on women who don’t volunteer the information. Rather, it requires a judge to ask the pertinent questions.

In deciding whether a father would have notification rights, however, courts must take into consideration any history of domestic violence between the parents.

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