Colby Nielsen had been by his newborn daughter Kaylee's side every moment since she was born on November 4, saying he loved doting on his little girl and holding her to his chest until she fell asleep.
But last week the Salt Lake City, Utah, man learned something heartbreaking -- the girl's mother was putting Kaylee up for adoption, she would be gone in just a few hours, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Nielsen lives in Utah, which has an adoption law that allows biological mothers to put their babies up for adoption without the father's consent, KFOR reported.
Colby Nielsen could have kept custody of Kaylee if he had filed a paternity action, an affidavit and a commencement notice with the state's office of vital records within 24 hours of the mother signing adoption papers. But Nielsen said he was never informed about the adoption until it was too late.
"(I thought) if you put your name on the birth certificate and you have the paternity established, you are the father," he said, "and I didn't know about anything else."
Nielsen said he had talked to the baby's mother and believed the two came to an agreement that he would raise Kaylee on his own. But the mother changed her mind at the last minute, instead deciding to give up the girl to be raised by friends of her parents.
Colby said giving up his baby daughter was the hardest and most heart-breaking moment of his life.
"It was the hardest thing I could do," Nielsen told KUTV. "I couldn't even get her out of the car seat."
Nielsen said he plans to fight for his daughter.
"I would like her back," Nielsen told KFOR as his eyes filled with tears.
Now the 20-year-old Nielsen is taking that fight to the public. He has hired a lawyer and even called a press conference to make his case.
Though he is just barely past his teenage years, Colby Nielsen said he is more than ready to be a father, and he has the support of his family as well.
"(It) makes me really proud to see him stand up and be a father and be nourishing," said Teresa Nielsen, Colby Nielsen's mother, in an interview with KSL.com.
Nielsen's attorney, Wes Hutchins, acknowledged that Kaylee's mother was within her legal rights when she put the baby girl up for adoption. But he also noted that in many other recent cases, Utah has ruled in favor of biological fathers.
He wants the courts to side with Nielsen this time as well.
"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.
It appears that Hutchinson already has the public on Nielsen's side. The case has resonated far beyond Utah, garnering headlines nationwide and drawing a lot of support for Colby.
Hutchinson is also forcefully making his case to the public.
"They took this man's daughter without his knowledge or consent. That is essentially, by definition, stealing," he said.
There are still many blanks in the story, however. Utah's laws keep the adoption agency, the adoptive parents, and the biological mother confidential, and so far none of them have come forward to give their side of the story.
But Hutchinson said he believes there is an "excellent" chance that baby Kaylee will be returned to Colby Nielsen, and the lawyer has even made an appeal directly to the adoptive parents to take the step themselves.
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