SELLERSBURG — An Indiana couple is holding on to the son they've tried to adopt for nearly three years even though a court has ordered them to surrender the child to his biological father in Ohio.
The Lucas County Juvenile Court this week ordered Jason and Christy Vaughn to hand over the nearly 3-year-old boy named Grayson to Benjamin Wyrembek, prompting their attorney to file a flurry of legal maneuvers to prevent the surrender.
“This isn't my fault and, quite frankly, it's not the birth father's fault. It's not the birth mom's fault. Everybody is doing what they think is right,” Jason Vaughn told The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky.
Wyrembek's attorney, meanwhile, says courts have ruled in his client's favor and the case shouldn't be tried in the media.
According to court filings, Wyrembek was seeing a married Toledo, Ohio, woman in 2007 when she became pregnant. She broke off the relationship and divorced her husband, ultimately surrendering the child at birth to a Columbus, Ohio-based adoption agency.
The Vaughns arranged to adopt the child and were present for the birth. When Grayson was delivered, the doctor handed him first to Christy Vaughn.
Nine days later, the Vaughns brought him home to Sellersburg in southern Indiana. Christy Vaughn was pregnant at the time with the couple's second child, Addison, who was born five months later.
“They've been raised like twins,” Christy Vaughn said.
But within 30 days of Grayson's birth, Wyrembek, of Swanton, Ohio, signed up with a state registry in Ohio saying he could be the boy's father, and then objected to the adoption. That led to the court battle, with Ohio courts ruling in Wyrembek's favor and the Indiana Supreme Court saying this week that courts in Indiana lacked jurisdiction.
Cincinnati adoption attorney Michael Vorhees, who represents the Vaughns, blames the Ohio courts that have been involved in the case for failing to follow state adoption law.
“The law says you don't need (the birth father's) consent for adoption if he willfully abandoned the birth mother during the pregnancy,” Vorhees told The Toledo Blade.
He said he was prepared to prove that Wyrembek provided neither financial or emotional support to his former girlfriend and son during and after the pregnancy.
“He's never contacted us directly. He's never asked how the child is doing. He's never sent a birthday card,” Vaughn said. “What they'll say is they've litigated this from the beginning, that he filed a paternity action in the very beginning, that he's done everything he can do.
“Our position is litigation is not the same as support. While I will admit he has filed lots of court motions, what I also will state is he has never contacted Grayson.”
Grayson has, however, met Wyrembek once, during a court-ordered 3 1/2 -hour meeting in Ohio. Christy Vaughn said it ended badly when there was a dispute over whom Grayson should call Daddy.
“It was psychological warfare on a 2-year-old,” she said. “It was absolutely insane.”
Wyrembek's lawyer, Alan Lehenbauer, said the dispute should be private.
“My client, the biological father, was awarded legal custody by an Ohio court after consideration of all evidence. A biological parent has a constitutional right to the care and custody of his or her children.
“My client believes that any publication or newscast involving his child will only serve to further disrupt his child's well-being. My client has sought the return of his child since shortly after birth and will not re-litigate this matter in the media,” the attorney said in a statement.
Vorhees said Wyrembek may think he did all the right things by registering with the Ohio Putative Father Registry after Grayson's birth and filing for paternity, but he said the law requires more.
“He had an obligation, and he didn't meet it, and that's been wiped out by these Ohio courts completely ignoring these statutes,” Vorhees said.
The Vaughns have asked the Ohio Supreme Court – which sided with Wyrembek in a 4-3 decision July 22 – to reconsider the case.
Vorhees also is asking a judge to stay the court order requiring the couple to surrender the boy.