Utahns defying judge, keeping baby for now

Relates to:
Date: 2008-01-04

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

Despite a court ruling in Idaho on Thursday, an American Fork couple say they still will not give up the baby they intended to adopt and have been taking care of for six months.

In a hearing Thursday in Kootenai County District Court, Idaho Magistrate Barry E. Watson denied a motion by the birth mother's attorney to allow the baby to stay with the American Fork couple during an appeal process by the adoption agency, LDS Family Services.

The birth father, Matt Tenneson, 20, of Coeur d'Alene, is seeking custody of 6-month-old baby Harvey, who was born in Coeur d'Alene. LDSFS is appealing a judge's ruling that Tenneson had some parental rights.

Jed and Cally Nielson, 24 and 26, of American Fork, say the adoption case isn't up to an Idaho judge.

"That judge has no jurisdiction over us," Cally Nielson said.

"We're keeping the baby until a judge who does have jurisdiction over us says otherwise," she said. "I'm going to put up a big fight."

The Nielsons' attorney, Larry Jenkins of Wood Crapo LLC of Salt Lake City, agrees. "We believe the Utah court has jurisdiction over the child and that the Idaho court does not," Jenkins said.

The birth mother, Cammie Knight, 19, said she supports the Nielsons in their decision not to give the baby back. "They expect the Nielsons to just hand him over," Knight said. "They expected no one to fight this. I am not going to just sit there and take it."

Tenneson declined to comment when contacted Thursday evening.

Cally Nielson said she wasn't surprised, however, that Watson quashed the motion. "It's hard for me to be surprised by anything that happens in Kootenai County anymore," she said.

Also, in Thursday's hearing, Watson set a trial date for the permanent custody of baby Harvey for April 29 and 30.

Watson ruled last month that Tenneson would have temporary primary custody of the baby and Knight would have some visitation.

The Nielsons have had baby Harvey since July. The adoption was never finalized since Tenneson's attorney showed up to the court hearing to contest the adoption.

Watson's ruling stemmed from an earlier court decision by Idaho Magistrate Robert Burton, who ruled Tenneson has some parental rights. Burton ruled as such despite the fact Tenneson didn't file for his paternal rights during the required time period. Burton's ruling is being appealed by LDSFS.

This appeal could go to the Idaho Supreme Court, according to officials with Holden, Kidwell, Hahn & Crapo. The law office, located in Idaho Falls, is handling the appeal for LDSFS.
E-mail: astewart@desnews.com


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