SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A birth father has been given custody of his nearly 2-year-old daughter in what could be the end of a legal tug-of-war between him and the girl's adoptive parents.
Terry Achane was given his daughter on Friday in court from her adoptive parents, Jared and Kristi Frei, said Achane's attorney, Mark Wiser. Achane will take Teleah back to South Carolina where he is an Army drill sergeant.
"I'm very happy, very happy," Achane said. "It's been 22 months too long, but the wait was worth it."
The child was placed for adoption at birth in 2011 by Achane's now ex-wife, Tira Bland, who traveled to Utah and signed off on the adoption without his consent or knowledge. The Freis, who live in a Provo suburb, legally adopted the girl through Utah-based Adoption Center of Choice and have raised her since she was born.
"How do you have a legal father, a couple that is married, and one spouse can give the child up for adoption without the permission or notice to the other parent?" said Archane's attourney, Mark Wiser.
In December, a judge issued a ruling that said the Freis and the Adoption Center of Choice ignored Achane once he stepped forward to claim his parental rights. The judge said they should have arranged to return the daughter.
"She's going to meet her grandmother," said Achane. "She got to talk to her a little on the phone last night, brought her to tears. She wants to see her in person."
There is one last legal hurdle for Achane to clear before the 21-month saga concludes.
The Freis have an appeal pending before the Utah Supreme Court, which has already upheld a decision by a lower court judge to void the adoption. The court is expected to hold a hearing on that appeal in late March, Wiser said.
Achane says he's grateful for the way the Freis treated his daughter, but he's glad to have her back.
"They raised my daughter right I believe. I hold nothing negative against them. They love my daughter as much as I do," said Achane. "I actually know what they're going through right now because I was there. They now actually know what I've been through, they're feeling that now."
The Fries attorney, Lance Rich, said afterward that it is a painful time for the couple and that they are asking for privacy.
"The Freis' focus and concern at this time are to enable her to make a successful transition to her father," said Rich.
The Freis have said previously that Achane abandoned his wife before the girl's birth and has done nothing to build a relationship with the toddler.
Taleah will go with Achane to South Carolina on Saturday. As part of the transition plan, the adoptive parents will be able to visit her in a few weeks.
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