Posted by Terry Alexander - email
FT. LEE, VA (WWBT) - In World War Two they called it a "Dear John" letter. A note from a girlfriend back home in the states, saying she was ending the relationship. In this age of texting and e-mail, the process has changed a little, but the pain is the same. Yet for one Ft. Lee soldier it turned into a legal ordeal, because in his case a baby was involved.
It's one of the toughest job's in the military. Ft. Lee's 1111th Quartermaster Company has the job of collecting remains on the battle-field, and with dignity and respect, return them to loved ones stateside for proper burial. As depressing as that work can be soldier Matthew Rodriguez says his worst day in the middle east came in the form of an e-mail from his fiance' in Colonial Heights, who at the time was five months pregnant with his child.
"She sends one e-mail, saying 'After careful consideration I've decided to give up my baby for adoption, I've already started the process, just to let you know'," said Matthew.
Matthew says that right around the time he was coming home to Ft. Lee from overseas, his daughter was born. Then a letter. It's from Chesapeake's Adoptions from the Heart. Dated December 15, it reads Matthew has 10 days to register with Virginia's putative father registry. If he doesn't, he waives the ability to dispute the adoption.
Here's the catch. Matthew alleges his military mail didn't catch up with him until January 23, long after the deadline expired. And legally, that meant his ex-fiance' could make all the decisions.
"So when she says 'I'm giving up my baby', okay fine, give up your baby, but I'm not giving up mine." Matthew said.
If Matthew is telling the truth about when he was notified and a lawyer from "Adoptions from the Heart" claims he isn't, then there is a provision for military personnel that would seem to fit this case. It's called the Service Members Civil Relief Act.
"It provides and insures that anybody who's in active military service, will not be prejudiced by their attention to their military service, so time lines like Matt ran into, would not act to his prejudice," said NBC12 legal analyst Steven Benjamin.
So Matt started shopping around for an attorney of his own to fight for the right to raise this baby himself.
"That's what I wanted from the beginning. I wanted to get married and start a family, but now things have been altered a bit, but I still want that family," Matthew said.
But Matt won't get that family. Since our interview, Matt has had a court hearing where a judge threw out his arguments. The child will remain with her adoptive parents and Matt has signed a waiver, saying he won't pursue it any longer.