Judge Orders Adopted Baby Returned to Father, Couple Plans to Appeal Ruling
By RUSSELL GOLDMAN
A judge has ordered a Utah couple to return their adopted toddler to her biological father after it was revealed that his wife gave up the child without the father's knowledge or permission.
The couple, Jared and Kristi Frei, now has 60 days to return the 21-month-old girl to her father Terry Achane, a U.S. Army drill instructor. But the Freis' lawyer told ABCNews.com that they will not give up the girl, whom they call Leah, and will appeal the judge's ruling.
"They believe the district court made some fundamental errors in its decision and they will raise those with the appropriate appellate court. Yes, they will appeal," their lawyer Larry Jenkins told ABC News.com.
Achane, 31, was stationed in South Carolina on March 21, 2011, when his estranged wife gave birth in Utah and immediately turned the baby over for adoption.
Achane is now thrilled with the judge's ruling and the prospect that he will be united with his baby.
"He is extremely pleased with what [the judge] ordered," his lawyer, Mark Wiser, told ABCNews.com.
Achane initially feared that his wife, Tira Bland, followed through on a threat to have an abortion. It was several weeks after the baby, whom he calls Teleah, was born that he learned the child had been adopted and was in Utah, according to his lawyer.
When Achane contacted the adoption agency who facilitated the baby's placement with the couple, he was stonewalled, denied information and ignored when he told them he had not consented to the adoption, his lawyer claimed.
In his ruling, Judge Darold McDade said he was "astonished and deeply troubled" by the actions of the agency, the Adoption Center of Choice, calling its treatment of Achane "utterly indefensible."
According to Achane, Bland gave the agency Achane's old address in Texas where he lived prior to being stationed in South Carolina, and suggested he would not consent to the adoption. The agency attempted to contact him once in Texas, but seems not to have made any other efforts to receive his consent, Wiser said.
"Because there is ongoing litigation, we cannot comment at this time," the agency told ABCNews.com.
Achane knew Bland was pregnant and had taken her to prenatal doctor appointments in Texas, but Bland cut off all contact with him following his deployment to South Carolina and made arrangements for the adoption in secret, Wiser said.
The Freis have maintained a blog about the case where they claim that Achane "left [Bland] without any money, a car, or details of his whereabouts. Needing to act quickly for the best interest of her unborn child, and with incredible faith, fortitude, and courage, she put her child up for adoption."
In 2008, Kristi Frei was diagnosed with endometriosis and told she would not be able to conceive, according to the blog.
The Freis insist that it was they who tracked down Achane "several months" after adopting the baby, but to "our great shock and dismay" he refused to consent to the adoption.
The judge said in his ruling, however, that the couple knew that Achane had never been consulted and "acknowledged this risk but decided they wanted to proceed forward with the adoptive placement anyway."
According to their blog, the couple has raised more than $20,000 to pay for legal fees.
ABC News was unable to reach Bland for comment.