Utah Supreme Court denies stay in custody battle
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court has refused to stay a lower court’s decision ordering the adoptive parents of a 2-year-old girl to give her to the biological father.
Friday’s ruling came three days after the high court temporarily delayed the custody swap of the girl from her adoptive parents, Jared and Kristi Frei, to the father, Terry Achane of South Carolina.
The child was placed for adoption at birth without Achane’s consent or knowledge by his now ex-wife, Tira Bland. The Freis, who live in a suburb of Provo, Utah, legally adopted the girl through an agency and have raised her since she was born in 2011.
Also on Friday, justices set an expedited hearing for the couple’s appeal of 4th District Judge Darold McDade’s order granting Achane custody of his daughter, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 26-28.
The high court said McDade may make “any appropriate directives to ensure that the best interests of the child are preserved” until it rules on the appeal.
McDade had set a Wednesday hearing for the Freis to give the child up to her father, but it was canceled after justices on Tuesday temporarily delayed the custody swap.
Achane’s attorneys, Scott Wiser and his father, Mark, said they expect their client will soon be able to take custody of his daughter, Teleah. Achane is an Army drill sergeant stationed at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.
“In plain English: Teleah is going home to her father,” Scott Wiser said.
The Wisers said they’re trying to arrange a hearing before McDade within the next 10 days. At that hearing they expect Achane to receive custody of Teleah and to work out arrangements for the Freis to visit her in South Carolina.
“Sergeant Achane is extremely elated and is anxiously awaiting being able to be united with his daughter and be able to take her to South Carolina to meet the rest of her family,” Mark Wiser told The Tribune.
Attorney Lance Rich, who represents the Freis, declined to comment.
In December, McDade issued a 48-page ruling admonishing the Freis and the Adoption Center of Choice for ignoring Achane once he stepped forward as the child’s legally recognized father. The judge wrote that they should have then arranged to return the girl to Achane.