Soldier wins 22-month custody battle and finally reunited with daughter, 2, who his wife gave up for adoption without telling him
Achane said it was just days after he left his pregnant wife for his new job out of state that she quietly signed over their unborn baby to the Frei family in Utah.
The military man said that he and his wife, Tira Bland, were having marital problems not long after learning she was pregnant in 2010, leading to her decision to give up the child.
It was just months later in February of 2011 that Achane found himself sent to Fort Jackson in South Carolina for work, believing he’d leave and come back a new dad.
Ten days after his move, however, his wife went gave birth to a premature baby and signed away their child before cutting all contact with her husband.
‘I was like, “Utah? Where is Utah?” I’d never been to Utah. She’s never been to Utah,’“ Mr Achane told the Salt Lake Tribune of the moment he first heard the bizarre and horrifying news.
The girl was placed with Jared and Kristi Frei, who had spent the last few years struggling to naturally expand their family of five children, in the city of Spanish Fork.
The Freis appealed McDade’s November decision and raised money for their legal fees with a blog. On here they explained how they came to adopt the girl.
'We knew that we were not done having children, but after years of sudden infertility and several miscarriages … we discovered somewhere down the line that Kristi had advanced endometriosis, and would not likely conceive or carry another child again.’
Turning to adoption, in early 2009 the Frei family grew their family by one more with a baby boy named James.
Desiring to add one more child - 'a close, similar sibling’ for James - they found Achane’s daughter, whom they named Leah.
'Since that eventful day, we have, as a family, come to know that this dream was a righteous desire blessed to fruition by God, and that Leah would be that child - and yet, little did we know the challenges and trials that awaited us in finding and fighting for this little girl,’ they wrote.
Achane was 'completely elated’ after Judge McDade ruled late last year his baby daughter would be given back to him by mid-January after he was stripped of his parental rights to raise the child.
But the Utah couple who adopted her at birth quickly filed a motion asking that McDade stay his order dismissing their adoption petition and requiring the baby be returned.
With the judge’s recent ruling, he noted the Freis family acknowledged the risk of the father’s upset but 'decided they wanted to proceed forward with the adoptive placement anyway.’
Kept in the dark throughout this with months of being unable to reach his wife, Achane asked a friend to visit her home in Texas who reported that the house appeared vacant.
Feverishly calling anyone who may know where his wife could be, while fearing she may have carried out the abortion she once threatened to do, he learned from a family doctor that his wife was no longer pregnant but they could not legally disclose what had happened to the baby.
An ounce of relief only came to the horrified man when his wife finally called him in June, telling him she had signed away their baby to the Frei family.
‘I believe she felt guilty at that point because she just made a call out of the blue,’ he said of his ex-wife’s phone call.
Once he learned of his daughter’s fate, he immediately tried to track his little girl down but upon contact with the adoption center they refused to disclose any information on her whereabouts.
The agency told the court in October that it was standard procedure to not share any information with a father of a potential adoptive child when asked.
'I am not a very religious person,’ Achane has since told the Tribune, 'but thou shalt not steal.'
Speaking of the drawn out legal battle, he said: 'If they prolong it, that is more time away from my daughter. There are precious moments I can’t get back. … It has been a year and a half now.
'There is no court order saying they have the right to my child. I just won the case. I want to get my daughter and raise my daughter,’ he said.
When an attorney for the Frei family contacted Achane, asking him to consent to the adoption, he said no and demanded his little girl returned to him - to the Frei family’s complete surprise.
'Over the last 19 months, despite the law requiring that a father show interest in his child and at least attempt regular communication to establish a bond, the father has never shown any interest in Leah other than to hire an attorney,’ the family writes in their blog.
Despite a judge’s order to return the child within 60 days, the family now asks that his parental rights granting him custody of her be terminated.
They accuse him of abandoning both the mother and baby during her pregnancy and therefore demonstrating no capability for raising the girl.
'The right of a fit, competent parent to raise the parent’s child without undue government interference is a fundamental liberty interest that has long been protected by the laws and constitution of this state of the United States, and is a fundamental public policy of this state,’ said Judge McDade.
He added that there is no law requiring the father to 'prove himself’ as fit to father his own child.
'Once Mr Achane contacted the Adoption Center of Choice … to let them know he opposed the adoption and wanted his daughter back, that should have been the end of this case,’ said McDade.
Judge McDade berated the Adoption Center of Choice’s handling as 'utterly indefensible.’
'This is a case of human trafficking,’ Achane’s attorney Mark Wiser told the Tribune.
'Children are being bought and sold. It is one thing what [adoption agencies] have been doing with unmarried biological fathers. It is in a new area when they are trying to take a child away from a married father who wants to have his child.’
But on Friday, Judge McDade upheld his November 20 decision dismissing their adoption petition and awarded custody to Achane.
Utah Judge, Darold McDade, decided yesterday that Terry Achane, 31, should have custody of Teleah. The girl can now return home with her father, until a March hearing in Utah’s high court.
Jared and Kristi Frei, the Utah couple who had hoped to adopt Teleah, left the court through a back exit.
The Freis did not speak to the media but their lawyer, Lance Rich, called it a painful time for the family.
Rich requested some privacy for the Freis and for 'the little girl whom they considered part of their family for these past 22 months.’
As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, Rich stated: 'The Freis’ focus and concerns at this time are to enable her to make a successful transition to her father.
'Please respect the privacy of the Frei family and also of the child in this case and allow all involved in this case to heal from this experience.’
Achane told the Tribune that the decision was 'hard’ on the Frei family and that there were a 'lot of tears.’
'They raised my daughter right,’ Achane added. 'They love my daughter just as much as I do.’
I got my daughter back,’ Achane told the Salt Lake Tribune. 'I’m very happy. It’s 22 months too long, but the wait was worth it.’
^ Disgusted by the Frei Family and the biological mother and the Adoption Agency. I do not have anything wrong with Adoption, I do think it is beautiful but in cases like this no. I am glad to say that the Adoption Agency got their license taken away. As to the Frei Family with their 20,000 donations to pay for their legal fees they should but give it to Terry Achane who also had to pay for legal fees considering the Frei Family was complaining that they already paid for two expensive adoptions costing 25,000 each. I am so happy for him that he finally got the right to have his beautiful princess and praise the judge for realizing that. Black fathers stand up !
I have a late class today, so I actually have some time to prepare food and have breakfast. Also, I have a lot of case briefs to handwrite for Agency class before I leave my apartment. Good luck to me!
It’s holiday here today! Unfortunately I wasn’t too productive today, and now I feel really bad about it. And I’m really anxious about that consultation with the legal aid director, which I keep on delaying (she will probably kill me when I meet her tomorrow.)
Anyway, I’m trying to salvage my day by being productive tonight. I just spent the last hour planning my finances for the rest of the month and for next month; I really need to save up for a decent desk for my apartment. Now, I’m getting a head start with my revision for Agency midterm.
@ pro lifers: you can morally disagree with abortion and still be pro choice.
Because your personal morals do not and should not dictate the law. Your beliefs don’t change the rights other people have to their own bodies. Nor should they threaten or strip people of their right to privacy and physical/emotional safety.