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 Friday in court, 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.
Jared and Kristi Frei, who live near Provo, 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 stating 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, "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 on March 2, Wiser said.
"He's absolutely thrilled to death to have his daughter," Wiser said of Achane. "He's been trying to just make up for lost time."
Larry Jenkins, attorney for the Freis, said in a statement that this is an extremely difficult time for the couple and for the 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."
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.