Kim and Dave Hodgin became the foster parents of Sonya before she was two. She was adopted by them in 2008. Before the adoption was finalized, Sonya’s birth father, John McCaul pled guilty to transporting firearms and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Under Tennessee law, parents who are incarcerated for more than ten years do not have any rights to a child under the age of 8, so McCaul’s custody rights to Sonya were terminated. McCaul later cut a deal by providing information that he had about a homicide and his sentence was reduced to 7 ½ years which allowed him to assert his parental rights and fight to reverse the adoption.
In November 2009, the adoption was reversed but Sonya continued to live with the Hodgins while both sides disputed custody. In January 2014, a judge returned Sonya, now 9 years old, to McCaul’s custody. Sonya has moved from the Hodgins’ home in Tennessee and now lives in Omaha, Nebraska with McCaul. According to the Hodgins, Sonya has been begging to come home. The Hodgins have filed a petition in Tennessee requesting that Sonya be returned to their custody.
Both these article imply that there were no visits between Sonya and her biological father during his incarceration, so she essentially has no memories of him and as the Hodgins state, he is a stranger to her. It is surprising to me that custody was changed so drastically and so suddenly. I am not implying that this was the wrong decision, only that I am surprised that the judge ordered Sonya to live with essentially a stranger without some type of transitional period. While McCaul will remember Sonya, the reverse isn’t true and I would imagine there would be a slightly less traumatic way to transition Sonya into McCaul’s custody gradually.