Terry Achane, a South Carolina man who works as a drill instructor, found himself fighting for custody against Jared and Kristi Frei, a Utah couple who adopted his daughter from his ex-wife Tira. Terry was still married to Tira when she decided to give the girl up to adoption to the Freis, but he wasn’t in on the deal, because as a military man he was deployed when the adoption occurred, and his wife neglected to tell him about it.
Tira said she knew the marriage wouldn’t last, and offloaded the girl to avoid becoming a single mother.
Kristi Frei, who already had five children of her own, started adopting in 2009 following infertility caused by endometriosis. The first child she adopted was a black baby boy named James, and she decided to provide James with a similar-looking sibling, choosing the lively little girl who happens to be Mr. Achane’s daughter. When Mr. Achane tried to seek the return of his daughter (from marriage, mind you) the Freis contested, saying the baby was better off with them. They are arguing that having spent $25,000 each for the two babies, they should be entitled to keep her.
It’s tempting to lash out at the Freis for this, but it’s also pretty clear that they truly care about this girl, so it isn’t such a simple matter. In their minds, what they are doing seems reasonable — love for children has a potent effect. But it actually is a terrible, awful thing they are doing, and it must stop now, for the sake not only of the little girl and her father but their eternal souls as well (they are religious people).
It seems one of their biggest mistakes was believing Tira, who gave everyone a sob story about how her husband left her without anything. Absolute garbage. A military wife can obtain a temporary separation order and an instant child support garnishment plus military benefits even while her husband is deployed. The only thing she can’t do is get a permanent custody order. In this case, it’s clear that Tira didn’t want to take care of the girl, but she didn’t want to pay child support either, so she invented a hard times song and dance and sold her off to the Utah couple.
If Terry Achane only wanted to avoid child support, he’d be entirely off the hook with the adoption. That he actually wanted to be a father may have surprised a few people, including his ex-wife, but it isn’t for personal gain in this case. Not at all. He won’t collect much from Tira — that’s clear. He simply wants to be a father to his daughter, and there’s nothing strange about that.
For readers who care about this, I’d recommend writing to Jared Frei and appealing to him as a father to gracefully accept the disappointment. I think it’s an important cause, and hopefully he will listen. Don’t insult or condemn the Freis, but firmly let them know that this matter is best settled through acceptance of the law, which is fortunately on Mr. Achane’s side.
I like to think that men of goodwill can settle these matters between each other. Because Terry Achane cares about his daughter, I think he will forgive the Freis, and maybe he can even develop a positive relationship with the family, especially if Jared Frei can assert some moral leadership in his family and do the right thing.
Email Jared Frei here. Be compassionate, because a child is involved, and it’s best for her and her father if they can come out of this with the least amount of bitterness.
Yes, this is the kind of thing that can drive a father crazy, but sometimes we have to have a light touch around the kids.