News 12 @ 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015
AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- It's a fight no parent wants to endure, the fight to raise your own child. One Aiken man went the distance to get his daughter back. "I wanted to be a part of my daughter's life. I didn't want to miss out on anything of my daughter," the father, Christopher Emanuel said.
He was able to get his daughter back using a law few people seem to know about. "When you see my daughter, she is a joy. If you're having a bad day and you're around her, she'll make you smile," Emanuel said.
Christopher Emanuel cherishes every moment with his daughter Skylar, because he almost never got to have them. "There should be no laws put in place that stop any capable and willing father from raising their child. There is no greater human right than that of a father," he said.
Christopher was not married to Skylar's birth mother. He says her mother did not approve of him because of his race. He says although her mother disapproved, they initially continued with their plan to raise their daughter together.
Emanuel says they texted, emailed, and called daily, but the mother of his child was misleading him. The last prenatal doctor's appointment he was able to attend was December the 26th. After this he says he was strongly suggested he not attend because his ex's mother would be there. Then weeks before she was due to give birth, she did not show up to a diaper bash his family was throwing, because she said she was sick, which worried Christopher, so he registered to South Carolina's lawful father registry. "At the time I was discussing my concerns with my half-sister and her best friend and they found the responsible father registry," the father said.
Christopher says his ex was supposed to give birth on February 15, 2014, but she told him she was going to be induced on the 24th. He later found out, Skylar was born on the 11th without him ever knowing. "On Feb. 22 I got a knock on the door from a private investigator about adoption proceedings," he tells News 12.
His daughter was with an adoptive family in California, so he began his fight to get his daughter back. "You want my daughter? Adoption is for children without families, not for children with a willing and capable family," he said.
His attorney, Jennifer Mook, said when she heard his story she felt compelled to take his case. "It was just one of those cases where I really felt like I could help someone that had been wronged," Mook said.
In South Carolina, unwed father's give up their rights to their children if they are not on the father registry. "If you're an unwed father you have to kind of climb a mountain to get your child. You have to prove you can care for the child, that you want the child, that you can provide financially for the child," she said.
As of June, only 1588 fathers have signed into the registry for the entire state. If Emanuel hadn't, he might not have gotten his daughter back. "I was devastated. I couldn't think, I couldn't focus, I couldn't breathe. I was incomplete, they stole my joy, moments that I'll never get back," he said.
Finally, on May 3rd, 2014, Emanuel was granted physical custody, and Skylar came back home. "My daughter... feeling her first touch, feeling her warmth, knowing she is safe, and knowing she's with her family and her father that is going to love her unconditionally for her, it was the best moment in the world," he said. On January 13, 2015, Skylar's mother's rights were terminated, and Emanuel was granted sole custody.
Christopher is not done fighting yet. He started the Sky is the Limit Foundation. Now he's advocating for all of the other fathers out there who might be in the same position. His goal now is a national registry, and advocating for father's rights across the country. Right now there are only registries in thirty three states. But even registering doesn't guarantee you custody. Fathers have to prove they can provide and care in addition to paternity.
"I first want to thank God, my family, my close friends, Donna Gibbs, my pastor Dr. Reverend Slaughter and the Second Baptist Church Family, my attorneys Jennifer Mook, Kimaka Nichols-Grahm, Courney Clyburn Pope. Specials thanks to Kevin Noble Maillard and the Aiken County Judicial Court for bringing my daughter home where she belongs. My family and I are forever grateful!" he said.