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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Yard sale supports custody fight

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Members of the Bell Buckle community turned out this weekend for a yard sale to raise money to offset legal costs incurred in a long cusotdy battle between a local family and a foster couple in Florida.
(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely)
People usually turn out early for yard sales -- and the one held this weekend to help a Bell Buckle family with legal costs stemming from a long custody battle had folks lining up to pitch in.

Plenty of books, computer software, clothes, furniture and other items too numerous to list were for sale, with all proceeds going toward paying for the mounting legal fees incurred in a legal battle for 4-year-old Christian to live with his maternal cousin and her husband, Tiffany and Jeff Delk of Bell Buckle, and his extended family.

Three weeks ago, an attorney for Denise and Ivar Baklid of Orange City, Fla., filed a notice of appeal with Florida's 5th District Court of Appeals asking the court to overturn Circuit Court Judge Frank Marriott's decision last month to reject their attempt to adopt the boy.

Christian is now back with the Delks in Bell Buckle after the judge denied the adoption petition. The Baklids had kept the boy for three months prior to that.

While both parties involved have been ordered by a judge not to talk to the media about the custody fight, several sources close to the family have expressed frustration that while the Delks have honored the judge's instructions, the Baklids and their attorney have repeatedly given interviews to Florida journalists about the case.

"Everytime they go to a hearing or there is a ruling, they [the Baklids] run to the media and there is a front page story in the Florida papers," one source told the Times-Gazette, explaining that the Delks follow the judge's orders and remain silent.

One was a front page story in the Orlando Sentinel that featured a picture of Christian at 18-months-old that was torn in half to illustrate how the custody battle has "torn the child apart." Friends of the family note that while the Delks refuse to allow Christian to be photographed for any story about the custody fight, the Florida paper ran an color image they claimed was provided by the Baklids.

Sources also tell the T-G that the silence from the Delks has resulted in "very one-sided stories in the Florida papers." Another source said that the latest move by the Baklids will "tie the case up even longer in the courts."

"We were really hoping to see the whole adoption process come to completion, but now it's tied up even longer and it goes on."

But while the long custody battle has obviously taken a toll on the Delks, a family friend claims Christian is "very, very happy" to be back in Bell Buckle.

"Since he's been back, it's like a metamorphasis from him being in the Baklids' custody to being up here. He was withdrawn and uncommunicative, but since he's been up here, he's just friendly and outgoing."

"This is his home. This is where he needs to be, here in Tennessee. This is his family."

As for the yard sale, Sherry Hunter, who helped to organize the fund raising event, praised the response from the community.

A steady stream of people filed in since the 7 a.m. opening Friday and many have paid more than the marked price on items to help with the legal fees, not to mention many contributions. There was also an outpouring of support from the community with the donation of items to help with the benefit.

A Daytona Beach appellate court ordered Marriott in March to hold a final adoption hearing, but to exclude Tiffany Delk from the proceeding. The ruling stated that the Baklids would be the only ones considered when the adoption hearing took place.

The boy was ordered returned to the Florida couple in February. Last month, the Florida Supreme Court rejected Tiffany Delk's petition to overturn the appellate court's ruling.

The Baklids had cared for Christian for 16 months after his birth. They had planned to adopt him in March 2003 when Delk and her husband applied for adoption.

The Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF) has preferred that the Delks raise the child, and in 2003 Seventh Circuit Court Judge Shawn L. Briese ruled that he couldn't stop the department from taking Christian away from the Baklids and giving custody of the boy to his relatives in Bell Buckle.

The following year, the appellate court decided Briese had the authority to make a decision on the case, who then ruled that the Baklids should get custody of Christian. DCF had asked the appellate court to overrule the lower court's decision.

The boy was moved to Tennessee because DCF officials have said they would rather he live with his relatives. Christian needed a home when his mother, who had tested positive for cocaine, abandoned him three days after she gave birth at a Daytona Beach hospital.

This landmark case has set a legal precedent in Florida because it affirms a judge's right to intervene in what the judge thinks is the best interest of children.

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