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Dad will get to hold infant son
Trial will decide final custody in case

The StarPhoenix, By Lori Coolican, Page A3, October 5, 2006

A family court judge has cleared the way for a Saskatoon man to hold his infant son in his arms for the very first time, five months after the child was born in a local hospital and handed over to a childless Prince Albert couple.

Rick Fredrickson and his fiance can spend one hour a week with the baby under close supervision at a Prince Albert facility while waiting for a trial to decide who will get custody, Justice Sean Smith ruled Wednesday.

The fact that Fredrickson is the biological father is no guarantee he'll win the right to raise his son, Smith noted.

"My understanding of the law is that he doesn't hold a trump (card) on that."

Fredrickson learned his ex-girlfriend was pregnant with his child through a phone call from a member of her family a few weeks before she was due to  give birth. By that time he was engaged to marry Barb Hesketh-Jones, a mother of two grown kids who can no longer have children of her own.

The family member told him that his ex-girlfriend intended to give the baby up, and that if he wanted any say in the child's future he should come forward quickly.

Fredrickson immediately started contacting every government agency he could think of, making it clear he wanted to take care of the baby himself.

He was told to hire a lawyer, and was advised he had no rights until after the birth, when a paternity test could be done to prove he was the father.

The next thing he knew, his son had been born and released from hospital under the name of the Prince Albert couple, who continue to have custody.

Citing privacy restrictions, hospital staff would not allow private detectives hired by Fredrickson to serve his ex-girlfriend with documents for the paternity test. He sent flowers to her room for Mother's Day instead and got the delivery driver to hand over the documents at the same time.

Positive test results came back in July.

Considering the circumstances, Smith wondered how the Prince Albert couple can proceed with a legal adoption of the baby, since the biological father's consent is required unless his identify is unknown.

Fredrickson's ex-girlfriend will either have to lie to the court and say she doesn't know the father's identity, or the court will have to dispense with Fredrickson's consent, Smith said.

"How did this come about?"
The Prince Albert couple are intent on keeping the baby and have already spent five months bonding with him, their lawyer told Smith, adding their  marital relationship is more long-standing than Fredrickson's and could therefore be considered more suitable for raising a child. They did not attend the hearing.

Fredrickson and Hesketh-Jones have been working multiple jobs to pay legal fees. They moved to a larger apartment, furnished a nursery and submitted to a professional home study, which resulted in a positive review of the environment they can provide for a baby. Now, they have to wait for atrial. No date has been set. Smith said he'll make arrangements for a pre-trial hearing in order to move the process along as quickly as possible.

"To describe this situation as difficult would be a little bit of an understatement," he said.

Flanked by a crowd of relatives and supporters outside the court, Fredrickson said he can't wait to meet his child. "He's my son, he's family. Family is important."

Even if he wins the custody battle, he said he intends to keep fighting for father's rights to parent their children and he wants to know why government agencies that say they uphold children's rights to a relationship with their biological parents whenever possible were unwilling to help him be a responsible father.

"Something went wrong, and I want to find out what it is," he said.