A hearing today in Provo may decide the future of baby

Relates to:
Date: 2008-01-25

Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT)
Author: Amy K. Stewart Deseret Morning News

PROVO -- The future of baby Harvey could lie in the hands of a Provo judge.

American Fork's Jed and Cally Nielson, whose adoption of a baby boy is being contested by the child's birth father in Idaho, will appear at a hearing today before 4th District Judge James Taylor.

At the hearing, the judge is expected to decide which state -- Idaho or Utah -- has jurisdiction over the now-7-month-old baby. Recent rulings by Idaho judges have given parental rights to the baby's biological father -- decisions the Nielsons are fighting.

Cally Nielson told the Deseret Morning News she isn't overly worried about the outcome of the hearing. "I'm trying to have faith in the court system," said Nielson, 24. "I believe the Utah court will get it right."

The Nielsons have had the boy since July. The adoption was never finalized since the birth father's attorney showed up to the adoption hearing to contest the adoption.

Also at the hearing today, the judge may resolve the question of whether Utah courts will enforce the Idaho judge's court order for the Nielsons to hand over the baby to the birth father, Matt Tenneson, 20, of Coeur d'Alene.

In December, in Kootenai County District Court, Idaho Magistrate Barry E. Watson ruled Tenneson would have temporary primary custody of the baby. Cammie Knight, the child's biological mother, who wants the Nielsons to have the baby, was given visitation rights.

Watson's ruling stemmed from an earlier court decision by Idaho Magistrate Robert Burton, who ruled Tenneson has some parental rights. Burton issued that ruling despite the fact Tenneson hadn't filed for his paternal rights during the time period required by state law.

Burton's ruling is being appealed by the adoption agency LDS Family Services, which handled the adoption for the Nielsons. This appeal could go to the Idaho Supreme Court, according to officials with Holden, Kidwell, Hahn and Crapo. The law office, located in Idaho Falls, is handling the appeal for the LDS agency.

The Nielsons' attorney, Larry Jenkins, says it's possible Taylor may not make any decisions during today's hearing. The judge has up to 60 days to make a ruling.

"It's hard to say what a judge will do, but the law is clear," said Jenkins, with the Salt Lake firm Wood Crapo LLC.

Jenkins filed an affidavit in 4th District Court in Provo this week. It states: "The Court should refuse to confirm the Idaho custody order because the Idaho court lacked jurisdiction over the child, and the Nielsons were not served notice of the Idaho proceedings or allowed to participate therein. The Court should leave custody of the child with the Nielsons."

Sources say Tenneson isn't planning to attend the hearing today.

Knight, 19, of Coeur d'Alene, said Wednesday she was planning to fly to Utah today. Knight said she might attend the hearing, depending on whether her presence would affect the case favorably.

Regarding today's hearing, Knight said, "I honestly don't know what to expect. Hopefully the Utah judge will follow the law. I hope he does what is right." E-mail: astewart@desnews.com


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