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Utah high court ends dad's parental rights

Published: Sunday, May 31 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Utah Supreme Court added yet another twist in the custody battle over a 4-year-old boy by upholding a juvenile court's termination of the biological father's parental rights.

Arturo Nuosci, of Las Vegas, paid a Salt Lake woman, Rachel Sullivan, to become a surrogate mother, and she gave birth to the boy in July 2004. However, Nuosci was sent to federal prison for fraud. Sullivan placed the boy, named Anthony, for adoption with Toni and Matt Worthington.

Sullivan, however, later had second thoughts. A protracted and complex legal battle ensued, and the Utah Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that the biological parents should have the boy, although the high court also said it considered the Worthingtons to be the right people to keep the child temporarily while his permanent status was resolved.

Nonetheless, the attorney for the Worthingtons at that time said the 2006 ruling was "like a death" for the couple.

After that, Nuosci, a Canadian citizen, filed for permanent custody of the boy in district court while the Worthingtons and Sullivan sought to have Nuosci's parental rights terminated in juvenile court.

After a two-day trial, the juvenile court determined that Nuosci's parental rights should be ended for several reasons: a history of criminal conduct in the United States and Canada, illegal actions in the months prior to the child's birth to "legitimize his existence under an assumed name," and a subsequent prison term of three years that deprived the boy of having a normal home and relationship with Nuosci.

The juvenile court also found that since Nuosci had been permanently deported to Canada, giving the child to him would severely disrupt the boy's physical, mental and emotional condition.

In addition, the juvenile court determined that Nuosci had a history of violent behavior toward Sullivan and a former domestic partner, Lonnie James.

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed with the juvenile court's findings about Nuosci's fitness as a parent and what would be in the best interests of the child, and also rejected Nuosci's claim that the juvenile court did not have jurisdiction in the case.

Larry Jenkins, the attorney for the Worthingtons, said Friday the boy has remained with the family and they have an order of permanent custody issued by a juvenile court. In addition, an arrangement has been worked out with Sullivan so she has visitation.

"To her credit, I really do think she was looking out for Anthony's best interests," Jenkins said. "This has been a tough one, but I think we've worked this out in a way that best helps Anthony."

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com

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