Woman Fights To Regain Custody of Children After Signing Away Parental Rights
Posted August 28, 2000
WAKE COUNTY — Parents who want to get their children back after signing away their parental rights usually wind up in court if they can afford a lawyer. But even with a lawyer, there are no guarantees. One woman says her children belong with her, but she cannot get anyone to listen.
Katonna Lee has come a long way from the abusive relationship she was in three years ago. Today, she is happily married and pursuing her dream of being a seamstress. However, something is missing.
"There's still an emptiness without my children," Lee says.
In 1997, the Warren County Department of Social Services removed her four children as a result of violence in the home. She signed adoption papers giving up her parental rights.
"They made me feel like I had no other choice. I wanted what was best for my children. I just wanted them to have a better life," Lee says. "At that time, I knew I couldn't provide for them. Now, I can."
Three of the children are in foster care. Lee wants them back, but it may be too late.
Family lawyer Debbie Sandlin-Brockmann says it is almost impossible to re-establish parental rights.
"There's a very strong presumption in favor of not terminating parental rights," she says. "Once it's done, it's a very difficult hurdle to overcome."
It is a hurdle Lee is willing to jump.
"I think my life would be wonderful with them. I know they want to be with me," Lee says. "They remember me, they love me. It would make my life complete to have them with me."
Like many parents in this situation, one problem is that Lee does not have enough money for an attorney. She must prove to the court that she signed away her parental rights under duress, and prove that it would be in the children's best interest to live with her.
If she can prove these things, she would have to adopt her natural children from the state.