Raleigh Attorneys Bailey and Graber Deliver the Baby!!!
In 2009 a young man in Durham County got very mixed messages from his girlfriend of 5 years about the status of her pregnancy.
First she said that she had terminated the pregnancy. A few months later, after they separated and he discovered that she was still pregnant, she told him that he was not the father. Just after the baby was to be born, she informed him that he was the father, but that the infant had died at birth. Four months later she taunted him by saying that the baby (boy) was alive and looked just like him, and he'd been placed with a Wake County adoption agency. [The Court later found as fact that "there was nothing but lie after lie" from the Defendant mother.]
The father and paternal grandfather placed many calls to the adoption agency over a 4-month period. During this time, the agency placed the baby in the home of a family who wished to adopt him. The agency's only response to the calls was a letter from their attorney asking the father to cooperate with the adoption and submit to DNA testing to confirm his paternity.
Unable to afford to retain counsel, the father filed a pro se answer to the adoption, opposing it and requesting that his son be given to him. In addition, the father submitted to the DNA test that conclusively established that he was indeed the baby's father.
Nevertheless, the adoption agency continued to pursue the adoption and its efforts to terminate the father's parental rights, all the while insisting that the father's identity was unknown. In the process, the agency obtained an order to terminate the "unknown" father's parental rights. The agency gave notice of the hearing to terminate the father's rights by publication and never mailed the father a copy of the petition to terminate parental rights, or the order terminating his rights.
Fortunately two Wake County Volunteer Lawyers Program attorneys, Catherine R. Bailey (Raleigh) and Erin M. Graber ( Graber Law Firm, PLLC, Raleigh), stepped up to defend the father's rights.
Their hundreds of hours of effort (all pro bono) resulted in the Court's findings that the father had provided support to the child and his mother during her pregnancy, that service by publication regarding termination of his rights to an unknown father was improper service to the client, that the agency's action prevented the client from acting as a parent and exercising his constitutional right to parent his child, and that the adoption agency's actions had caused "irreparable harm to the [father] and the minor child".
The Court expressed sympathy for the plight of the family who had wished to adopt the baby, but found that they were aware of a legal risk to this adoption. The client was awarded sole custody of his son (now 13 months old) and followed the terms of a custody transition order.
"Redefining 'pro bono'" (September 9, 2011 article, NC Lawyers Weekly)