Jake Strickland in Utah is fighting for a son he never had the chance to set his eyes on. A son who was given away in adoption keeping him in the dark. The worst part of the story is that Utah’s laws do not recognize the rights of unmarried fathers like Strickland. In this case, the mother was a married woman – who concealed that fact to Strickland – and the de jure father was possibly too happy to give away the infant of the de facto father in adoption.
Attorney Wes Hutchins is representing Strickland both in the federal lawsuit and in an action pending in the Utah Court of Appeals. The lawsuit, says Hutchins, is making “an effort to hold everyone accountable for the conspiracy to defraud Jake.”
In the instant case, Strickland and Demke had started dating after they met in 2009 and within months she declared that she was pregnant. When Strickland wanted to sign up with Utah’s putative father registry, Demke became enraged and said that she would not allow Strickland to see the baby.
Strickland reconciled with the situation, bought groceries and gave cash to cover medical bills and continued to support Demke and a child she had from another relationship. He accompanied her to visit the doctor and was present during the ultrasound that revealed she was carrying a boy. The couple discussed names for the boy and planned to name him Jack. They discussed parenting plans including possibilities that Strickland would raise the boy on his own if necessary. Eventually, according to the lawsuits, Demke told Strickland she supported a shared parenting plan.
With baby Jack due in January, the two had a baby shower and attended a Christmas party hosted by Strickland’s family. On December 28, they toured the holiday lights at the LDS Church’s Temple Square, exchanged text messages on December 29, and nothing seemed amiss.
However, Demke gave birth to the boy on December 29, and immediately placed the baby up for adoption. Strickland was kept in the dark, and when he came to know of the birth on January 5, by then Demke had already given away the baby boy in adoption. Strickland was in for another surprise – he learned that Demke was not divorced, as he had been led to believe, and her legal husband had signed the papers that gave away Strickland’s son in adoption.
On January 6, Strickland filed a paternity claim. A third district judge did not dismiss his paternity claim and asked the motion to be joined with the adoption proceeding going on in Utah’s second District Court. However, the case was never consolidated, and again without explanations and without knowledge of Strickland, the adoption proceedings were hurriedly completed, and a second District Judge denied Strickland’s efforts to challenge the adoption.
Now, Strickland has gone to federal court and has filed a $130 million lawsuit for the “illegal deceit-ridden infant adoption” that deprived him of his son.
Jake Strickland is fighting for a son he never had the chance to set his eyes on and Utah’s laws do not recognize the rights of unmarried fathers. Attorney Wes Hutchins is representing Strickland both in the federal lawsuit and in an action pending in the Utah Court of Appeals.
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