A West Jordan couple is suing an adoption agency, a lawyer and a notary public for what the couple says was a bungled adoption with incorrectly handled paperwork that will result in the couple having to give up their 2-year-old adoptive son, Anthony.
Matt and Toni Worthington have sued the Families for Children adoption agency; Suzanne Stott, an agency representative; Les F. England, an adoption lawyer; and George T. Bradshaw, a notary public.
The Worthingtons contend the agency and these individuals failed to get proper termination of parental rights from the biological parents and did not have papers correctly notarized.
"They're devastated," said attorney Alan Mortensen, who is representing the Worthingtons in the civil lawsuit filed in 3rd District Court.
"They're not only traumatized by their loss, they're also traumatized by what this boy will be thinking: 'Where's mom and dad? Why aren't they coming to get me?"'
The Worthingtons are seeking financial compensation for emotional distress over losing Anthony and to offset the costs of the legal battle that Mortensen said has the couple teetering on bankruptcy.
England declined to comment Tuesday. A message left for Bradshaw was not returned. Suzanne Stott, with Families for Children, said she has not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on its contents but expressed sympathy for all the heartache associated with the situation.
"It's just a tragedy," Stott said. "It's a sad case for everyone involved."
Mortensen contends that the defendants failed to follow straightforward legal steps that are required in Utah adoptions.
For example, when a biological mother signs papers relinquishing her parental rights, it is supposed to be done either in open court or in the presence of an adoption agency witness and then notarized on the spot. In this case, Mortensen said, the biological mother signed papers that the adoption agency witness took to a notary later to be notarized.
That seemingly small but extremely important legal technicality not only derailed the situation as far as the biological mother's standing but under Utah law resurrected the parental rights of the father, who is in prison, Mortensen said.
The child was conceived after the biological father, Artro Nuosci of Las Vegas and Rachel Sullivan of Salt Lake City entered into a surrogacy agreement in which she was willing to be impregnated with his sperm and then give the child to him.
Sullivan gave birth July 13, 2004, and relinquished her parental rights, and Nuosci cared for the baby until Sept. 17, 2004, when he was arrested and ultimately imprisoned for making a false statement on a passport application.
Sullivan regained the baby, and she and the Worthingtons verbally agreed to an "open adoption" in which she would have some contact with the child. The Worthingtons filed a petition for adoption, and Sullivan again relinquished her parental rights but then had second thoughts about it and challenged the petition for adoption.
Meanwhile, Nuosci, who was in prison, also objected to the adoption.
The case made its way through the court system, and the Utah Supreme Court recently ruled that the Worthingtons can have only temporary custody of Anthony until further legalities are addressed regarding permanent custody.
Mortensen, the Worthingtons' lawyer, said he understands that the biological parents are fighting with each other over who will now get the child.But the high court ruling made it clear that Matt and Toni Worthington cannot keep Anthony which Mortensen said for the couple is "like a death."