He thought he would raise his unborn daughter together with his girlfriend, but she moved out and put his child up for adoption. Now he’s facing the fight of his life to get his little girl back. Mike Marza has more on this “Father’s Fight.”
WSVN — Fernando Fontaine and his girlfriend Anatasha admit they were young when they found out they were pregnant.
Anatasha Fruto: “Nervous and shocked, but then happy.”
Fernando Fontaine: “We decided we were going to raise the child together.”
They moved into Fernando’s parents’ house and set up a beautiful bedroom for their baby girl.
Fernando Fontaine: “She has a crib, a whole room for her, clothes until she’s 20 years old.”
But seven months into the pregnancy, Anatasha suddenly moved out.
Anatasha Fruto: “Stress, and you know how couples have arguments? Well, we would have arguments.”
Fernando thought they would work it out. But then he got a disturbing call.
Fernando Fontaine: “Two days afterwards, I got a phone call from an adoption agency. ‘Hello? No, what do you mean?'”
The agency told him Anatasha had signed away her parental rights.
Fernando Fontaine: “And that I should sign my rights away.”
Fernando Fontaine: “I was extremely upset and said, ‘No, this is my child, my blood. I want to raise her.'”
He says the agency told him he didn’t have a say.
Fernando Fontaine: “They explained to me that fathers don’t really have rights like that in Florida cause it’s the mother’s choice.”
Before the baby was born, he tried to talk to Anatasha.
Fernando Fontaine: “We would only talk on Facebook, and she would only respond when she liked to. I was in limbo, not knowing if we were going to raise her together or if she would go through with it.”
She didn’t even call him the day his daughter was born. Fernando went to the hospital anyway.
Fernando Fontaine: “I held her for a few minutes and then I left.”
The adoption agency took the baby the next day. Since then, Fernando and his parents have been fighting to get the little girl back.
Serge Fontaine: “I will fight to the death. This is my grandchild; she will not go anywhere.”
But if you’re an unmarried father in the state of Florida, you have to fight for your rights.
Louis Lliteras, Fathers For Equal Rights: “The first thing you have to do is get the birth certificate.”
Once the father’s name is on the birth certificate, he has to file a separate paper with the state saying he is the parent.
Louis Lliteras: “Without that establishment of your right, you’ve basically waived your rights. You lose them.”
Fernando admits he was clueless about what he needed to do legally before his baby was born. And because he never filed the proper papers, the state of Florida does not recognize him as the father or give him any parental rights.
Anatasha has now joined Fernando in the fight to get their daughter back.
Anatasha Fruto: “Yes, I regret the decision to place my child up for adoption.”
But a year and a half into the court battle, the baby is too big for the crib she never slept in and has outgrown the pretty clothes she will never wear. Brutal reminders for this father of all the moments he has missed.
Fernando Fontaine: “I’ve missed her walking, she’s already saying words.”
Legal experts say the law is clear: Once the birth mother signs away her rights, there’s no turning back. Fernando hopes his case will have a different outcome, or at the very least inform other fathers.
In the Newsplex, Mike Marza, 7News.