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Ruling backs adoptive parents

DENVER -- A Colorado couple cannot be forced to give their adopted son back to the birth mother in another state without a court hearing on what is best for the child, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled.

A Missouri judge had ordered the child returned because the birth mother changed her mind. The child, now a year old, has lived with the Colorado couple since shortly after he was born.

The court said Monday in a 6-to-1 decision that Colorado judges can hear custody disputes when judges in other states do not take into consideration the ''best interests" of the child.

''The Supreme Court said that the child has rights here, and the child's best interests should be considered before the birth mom would get a child back under these circumstances," said Tom Beltz, the lawyer for the adoptive parents.

Eric Samler, the birth mother's lawyer, said the ruling sets a bad precedent: ''It encourages and rewards somebody to come here and drag this out by fighting from day one."

The names of the participants in the case are shielded in the court proceedings. The adoptive mother spoke to The Denver Post on the condition she and the baby be identified only by first their names, Val and Alex.

After Alex was born in April 2003, the Colorado couple received approval from a Missouri judge for preliminary placement and took him to their home. Three weeks later, the birth mother revoked her consent to the adoption.

Alex was 6 months old before the Missouri judge ordered him returned. When a Colorado district judge in Jefferson County said he had no jurisdiction to intervene, Val and her husband appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. The case now returns to Jefferson County District Court.

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