A Salt Lake man involved in an unusual child custody dispute pressing the rights of a non-biological father has added a federal civil rights complaint to his ongoing state case.
A lawsuit filed by Winfield Duane Schoolcraft in U.S. District Court names the state Division of Family Services and several Ogden caseworkers and lawyers as defendants.It asks that Schoolcraft be awarded custody of his 5-year-old stepson and that the child's surname be changed.
He contends the division and other defendants conspired to deprive him of the right to raise his son and that his civil rights were violated during the custody battle in a "degeneration of honesty."
Division spokeswoman Terry Twitchell said her agency "seeks only to protect children's best interests" and has made no attempts to deny Schoolcraft's civil rights.
"In our opinion, this is a matter for the courts as it's always been, and we'll do whatever they tell us to," she said.
The Schoolcraft case has prompted the courts to examine what rights a husband has to a child who is born into his marriage but who is not his biological offspring.
According to court documents, Schoolcraft married the child's mother on Oct. 6, 1984, and lived with her for about seven months.
On Nov. 5, 1985, the woman gave birth to the child who was conceived during her marriage to Schoolcraft but who was not his son.
She later abandoned the baby and Schoolcraft began seeking custody.
A Weber County Juvenile Court judge denied Schoolcraft custody of the child on Feb. 10, 1987. The decision was affirmed by the state Court of Appeals on Nov. 3, 1988.
But in a decision on Oct. 19, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that Schoolcraft, as the child's legal stepfather, has a right to a custody hearing. The court remanded the case back to Weber County.