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Birth father finally gets custody of toddler

Jan. 26, 2013 - 10:17AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 26, 2013 - 10:17AM  |  
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SALT LAKE CITY — 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.

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.

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 have should arranged to return the daughter.

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.

The Freis did a wonderful job taking care of Teleah, but Wiser said that "It would have been a lot easier to have this happen when she was 2 months old instead of almost 2 years old."

Teleah will turn 2 years old on March 2, Wiser said.

"He's absolutely thrilled to death to have his daughter," Wiser said. "He's been trying to just make up for lost time."

Larry Jenkins, the Freis attorney, said in a statement that this is an extremely difficult time for the Freis, and for the little girl they considered part of their family for the past 22 months.

"The Freis' focus and concerns are in doing what they can to enable her to make a successful transition to her father at this time," Jenkins said.

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.

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