“They bonded with the child, absolutely,” Rice said.
The couple also signed a release with Catholic Charities, agreeing that the adoption was at-risk until the legal proceedings successfully concluded. The release noted that a father could exercise legal rights until the adoption was complete.
Indiana has a registry for men to notify the state that they may be the father of a child that could be put up for adoption.
But the Kramers began what they thought was a lifetime with the child, believing that no father had come forward.
A Catholic Charities staff member checked what is called the Putative Father Registry on May 25, several weeks after the child was born. Catholic Charities said no father had registered.
A staff member, though, checked again on June 1, and learned the baby’s probable father had registered on April 27, several days before the baby was born.
The father contested the Kramers’ adoption petition in July, spurring a court case that lasted several months.
A judge awarded the father custody of the girl in December 2010. The Kramers relinquished custody in January 2011.
“It’s like a death,” Rice said of the couple’s devastation.
The lawsuit argues that Catholic Charities was negligent when it did not check the Putative Father Registry before the child was born, which would have prevented the baby from being placed with the Kramers in the first place.
“There’s a difference between disappointment in thinking the child will be placed with you, and the child being placed with you, raising the child for a number of months and losing the child,” Rice said.
The attorney has handled about 200 adoptions.
But Catholic Charities has argued that the Kramers signed a release that said a father could ask for custody before the adoption was final.
The organization has said the risk is inherent when adopting.