An unmarried Utah father has filed a $130 million federal lawsuit against his son's biological mother, claiming she put their son up for adoption without his knowledge.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court Friday, Jake Strickland alleges the boy's mother, Whitney Pettersson Demke "essentially kidnapped" his son shortly after birth three years ago. Strickland alleges Demke, the adoptive parents and the adoption agency conspired in an "illegal, deceit-ridden infant adoption" that deprived him of his son, according to the suit.
"My son doesn't deserve to go through this. I don't deserve to go through this. This has been very heart-wrenching for everyone involved," Strickland says on GetBabyJack.com, a website explaining his fight to gain custody of the son that he has never met.
Pettersson and LDS Family Services, which facilitated the adoption, didn't respond to ABC News' request for comment.
Strickland and Demke met in 2009 but broke up before the baby was born in December 2010, according to court documents obtained by ABC News. But Strickland contends they remained friendly and agreed to share custody. Strickland says they even decided to name the baby boy Jack.
"I helped her with as much as I could. Gave her money whenever she needed it," Strickland explains in a video posted on the website.
The baby was born Dec. 29, 2010 and was put up for adoption the next day by Pettersson, Strickland says in the suit. Pettersson, according to Strickland, didn't tell him about the adoption until one week later.
"She had my son without telling me and put him up for adoption the next day," Strickland explains in the video.
Days later, Pettersson confessed that she had been planning to put Jack up for adoption from the beginning, according to Strickland.
"The moment that I found out, I filed for paternity, which was already too late. I know I should have filed earlier, but I trusted her," Strickland says.
But there was still another surprise waiting for Strickland, who thought Pettersson was divorced. But, in fact, she was still married to her estranged husband, who under Utah law, was presumed the father of Jack and had the right to give custody away.
Soon after Strickland learned the adoption was completed, he filed a paternity claim. That battle is still being fought in Utah's 2nd District Court.
Strickland's suit is challenging the boundaries of an unmarried father's rights in Utah.
"Under current Utah law, if you are the biological father, and have not filed every paper required, you could permanently lose your child," said Utah attorney Mark Wiser, who is not affiliated with this case.
Strickland continues to use the website to send messages to his son, who just turned 3 years old Sunday, and hopes to someday deliver them in person.
- Family & Relationships