Courts • South Carolina father now has custody of girl.
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A Utah couple are ending their fight to overturn a judge's ruling that sent a toddler placed at birth for adoption back to her father.
On Monday, Jared and Kristi Frei asked the Utah Supreme Court to voluntarily dismiss their appeal, saying the continued legal battle wasn't worth the potential psychological damage the 2-year-old girl might experience if her custody continued to shift.
Terry Achane, currently stationed at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, received custody of his daughter Teleah on Jan. 25. The court was to hear the Freis' appeal in March.
The dismissal motion, filed by the Freis' attorney Lance Rich, states that the couple believes 4th District Judge Darold McDade made "serious errors" in giving Achane custody of his daughter, who was placed for adoption without her father's knowledge or consent.
But the only way they could "ultimately prevail" would be if it were beyond dispute that Teleah did not successfully transition to her father.
Rich issued a statement on behalf of the Freis on Monday that said they had decided not to pursue the appeal of the contested adoption "after considerable thought and reflection under heart-wrenching circumstances."
"The Freis are committed to working with Mr. Achane to assist the child in making a successful transition," the statement said. "Because the Freis love the child deeply and want her to succeed in life, they are willing to put her needs before their own hopes and desires and would rather drop the appeal than risk the child suffering potential psychological and emotional consequences resulting from her either not making a successful transition or transitioning to caregivers multiple times in this critical stage of her development."
Achane, 31, and his then-wife Tira Bland were living in Texas when she conceived Teleah, who was due in mid-March 2011. Achane, an Army drill sergeant, received a job transfer to South Carolina that winter and left Texas in mid-January to set up a home. Ten days later, Bland decided to place their baby for adoption and traveled to Utah to give birth. She claimed her husband had abandoned her and had no interest in their child.
The Adoption Center of Choice placed the baby, born on March 1, 2011, with the Freis. Achane was initially unable to reach his wife and did not learn what had happened until June 2011. He immediately contacted the agency and demanded the return of his daughter, which was refused. In November, McDade ruled Achane's parental rights had been violated, dismissed the adoption and ordered the child's return to her father. At that point, the Freis appealed.
"We are extremely pleased that the Freis' have decided to drop their appeal to the Utah Supreme Court and to allow Teleah and her father an opportunity to move on with their lives together as they should have been allowed to do almost two years ago," said attorney Mark Wiser, who with his son Scott represented Terry Achane. "Legally speaking, it is probably a smart decision on their part to not allow the Supreme Court to rule on this case as it would have provided a very bad legal precedent that might have forced the Utah adoption industry to clean up their act of going behind fathers' backs to terminate their parental rights. This case was so important because it placed the focus on allowing parents to care for their children and not having others deny them their fundamental right to parent."
Frei family statement
"After considerable thought and reflection under heart-wrenching circumstances, the Freis have decided not to pursue their appeal of this contested adoption. Although the Freis remain convinced that the district court committed significant legal errors in this case, they believe that it would be best for the child to drop their appeal now that she has been transferred into the custody of Mr. Achane. The Freis are committed to working with Mr. Achane to assist the child in making a successful transition. Because the Freis love the child deeply and want her to succeed in life, they are willing to put her needs before their own hopes and desires and would rather drop the appeal than risk the child suffering potential psychological and emotional consequences resulting from her either not making a successful transition or transitioning to caregivers multiple times in this critical stage of her development."