Adoption battle quashed by Utah Supreme Court

Published: Friday, July 31 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

OREM — For three years, two families have wanted the same baby.

The birth father and his family have been fighting the legal system and an Orem adoption agency, declaring that the father's rights as a parent have been violated.

The birth mother, who lives in California, said she's been slandered and maligned for choosing what she felt was the best for her baby.

In the meantime, the baby's adoptive parents have been raising the little girl, praying that soon they'll be able to permanently call her theirs.

After a recent Utah Supreme Court decision affirming a 3rd District Court ruling, the longed-for adoption finalization is closer than ever before.

The Supreme Court ruled this week that the baby's birth father, Cody O'Dea, waived all of his parental rights in 2006 by not complying with Utah law to establish paternity.

In a 3-2 decision, the high court also wrote that O'Dea's four appeal issues hadn't been raised in the district court, and thus were not preserved in the federal arena.

What has now become a bitter baby battle began in 2005, when 18-year-old Ashley Olea got pregnant.

Neither she nor O'Dea were in a position to be parents, she said. They knew each other in high school, but the pregnancy was the result of a one-time encounter during college in Wyoming, not a romantic relationship.

Olea wanted to place the baby for adoption and emphasized that this decision was her own, not the result of "brainwashing" by her parents or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which she is a member.

However, O'Dea and his family have asserted that as soon as he learned Olea was pregnant, he insisted she keep the child and that he would provide for them, according to the family's Web site, www.babyselling.com.

He said Olea lied to him about a miscarriage, and only later did he learn she had given birth to a little girl in June 2006. He says he was denied information about the child's location, according to the Web site.

The O'Deas' Web site's name comes from a posting on Olea's MySpace page in which she jokingly listed her occupation as "baby seller."

It was in poor taste, she admits, but it was simply her reaction to what she felt were ridiculous accusations from the O'Dea family that she was selling her child in a Mormon conspiracy to "broker babies."

"There was never any opposition to Cody being a part of the baby's life," Olea said. "(But they) came out so strongly with this cause, I guess they feel like they're fighting the LDS Church, when in truth it has nothing to do with that."

O'Dea finally learned the child had been born in Utah and immediately placed for adoption; however, because O'Dea had only registered on the putative father registries in Wyoming and Montana, which notify biological fathers of future adoption hearings, he hadn't been notified of any adoption proceedings in Utah.

The high court ruled that because Olea had called O'Dea before the baby's birth and said she was in Utah, he should have taken the steps to register here. Because he didn't, when O'Dea tried to assert his parental rights in late summer 2006, he was told he was too late.

But he's still fighting.

The O'Deas' Web site states: "He wants to raise his daughter. Adoption was never an option. He won't quit until she's home."

Multiple calls to O'Dea's Odgen-based attorney were not returned, and e-mails to the family went unanswered.

The whole situation was never about cutting O'Dea out of the picture, but doing what was best for the baby, Olea said.

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