A South Carolina father has successfully won back custody of his young daughter Skyler after she was adopted without his knowledge or permission. Christopher Emanuel was ecstatic to be a father but was left devastated when his ex-girlfriend gave the newborn up without telling him shortly after her birth. While Emanuel signed a state registry in 2014 which made it mandatory for officials to notify him should Skyler be put up for adoption, that never happened and unbeknownst to her father, she was taken in by another couple. Now, she’s finally back with her dad.
- Christopher Emanuel was registered for the “responsible father law.” This law states that before an adoption can be granted, both parents have to sign over parental rights. Given that Emanuel was never notified and definitely never consented, Skyler’s adoption never should have gone through. “Before rights are terminated to allow an adoption to occur attorneys as well as the department of social services will check this registry and if his name is on there he must be notified,” Pat Littlejohn, president of the advocacy group South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, explained to Fox 57 News.
- Skyler was adopted weeks after Emanuel signed the registry. While Emanuel registered for notifications on Skyler’s status on February 4, it was on February 19 that a couple from San Diego, California filed adoption papers on which Emanuel wasn’t even listed as the father. “I was lost man, I was hurt I was confused because I wanted to ensure that I could be there for my child,” Emanuel recalled of the discovery.
- There were other exceptional details to the case as well. South Carolina law states that out-of-state adopters can only apply under “exceptional circumstances.” What counted as exceptional in this case? The fact that Skyler is mixed race and therefore deemed less desirable in the system. Yes, really.
- Emanuel wasn’t going to let this happen. He went through the courts in Aiken County, where Skyler was born, to fight the adoption and gain custody of his little girl. “This was my opportunity to prove that I was deprived of that my constitution and state rights were violated,” he said. “My daughter was in San Diego, CA with the perspective adoptive couple where her name is changed. I have medical documentation calling my daughter another name and she was never legally adopted.”
- After nearly a year, he won the case. He had to fight tooth and nail not only to stop the adoption, which had happened illegally but to gain custody of Skyler. However, after nearly a year in and out of court, he succeeded and a judge ruled in his favor. Soon after, Skyler was sent home to South Carolina. Not only that, but Emanuel started the Sky Is The Limit Foundation to help other dads in a similar position.