SALT LAKE CITY — A father fighting for the custody of his recently adopted infant daughter received mixed news Monday, as the child's adoptive parents gave up custody, but did so by giving the child to her biological mother, who reportedly has signed documents surrendering her parental rights.
Colby Nielsen's family garnered widespread attention on social media last week when they made a public plea for awareness about the court order that removed from his custody his 3-week-old daughter Kaylee, who Nielsen claims he planned to raise with his girlfriend.
Nielsen, 20, said the woman changed her mind a week after the birth and signed off on Kaylee's adoption, despite his objections and intentions to raise the child. He refused to sign adoption papers and said he would raise the daughter with the support of his family.
Wesley Hutchins, Nielsen's attorney, said he and his client met with Kaylee's mother Monday evening in the small Cache County town of Lewiston to discuss a plan of action on behalf of the baby girl. After the meeting, Hutchins said the woman proposed a plan under which she would assume primary custody of the baby and Nielsen would be allowed visitation. The negotiation failed to reach a resolution and it was possible the custody fight would extend to the courts, he said.
Hutchins said the adoptive parents erred in returning Kaylee to her mother. Hutchins insisted the woman gave up her parental rights when she signed adoption documents.
Hutchins said at a press conference Friday that under Utah law, Kaylee's mother could legally place her for adoption without Nielsen's consent. But he promised he would draw from recent case law to fight the adoption in court.
"To take his child away from him after raising her for two weeks, or any significant period of time, is reprehensible — and it is contrary to the most basic notions that we hold dear as Americans," Hutchins said at the time.
Baby Kaylee's adoptive parents, who wished to remain anonymous, refuted some of the claims made by Nielsen's family in a statement Monday:
"Sadly, misinformation has caused immense pain and suffering by all parties involved. Our hearts go out to both biological parents. We are formally relinquishing all custodial rights. We are happy to have reunited Kaylee with her loving biological mother," the statement said in part. "We believe the couple, if unfettered by legality and other pressures, will be able to decide what is best for Kaylee. This is how the situation should have always been resolved. At no point has Kaylee ever spent a 24 hour period away from one of her biological parents."
The adoptive parents said their intentions and behavior regarding Kaylee has been mischaracterized.
"Our intent was always to have a completely open adoption, as discussed with both biological parents prior to birth. We have always wanted what is best for Kaylee," the remainder of the statement said. "Had we known that all parties were not in agreement in these regards, the adoption never would have taken place. We have hope that this may yet be a happy story for Kaylee and her biological parents."
The pleas of Nielsen's family for public scrutiny of his daughter's custody situation were met with resounding support online. More than 40,000 people had liked a Facebook page titled "Get Baby Kaylee Home to her Daddy" as of Monday evening. A GoFundMe donations account, presumably created for legal costs, had raised close to $20,000 from more than 750 people in just three days. A petition on the White House website associated with Nielsen's case was posted Saturday, calling for an investigation into Utah's adoption policies, which it called "civil rights atrocities." The petition had gained 2,240 signatures as of Monday.
Contributing: Dave Cawley, Andrew Adams