WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 25, 2014, 08:51 PM

Appeals court rules that father had his parental rights wrongfully terminated

Detroit Lakes, MN (WDAY TV) - A complicated "parental rights" case in Becker County just became a bigger, more tangled mess.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Detroit Lakes, MN (WDAY TV) - A complicated "parental rights" case in Becker County just became a bigger, more tangled mess.

When the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled this week that Carl Gessell had his parental rights "wrongfully terminated" because of his mental impairment, it set off a firestorm of opinion on what is best for a 2-year old girl at the center of the case.

Carl Gessell/ Detroit Lakes: “I said finally, my prayers have been answered.”

Carl Gessell loves his only daughter. There is just one problem. He and the charming two and a half year old girl have been apart most of their lives. Serenity lives in foster care, after Becker County Social Services terminated Carl's parental rights, based on an ordered IQ test.

Gessell: “It made them come up with something that I had a low IQ and mentally handicapped and I think that is wrong and I should be given a chance.”

Cheryl Delka/ Carl’s Mom: “It was very degrading for him. He is a loving father he has had her before when she was tiny and had her on weekends and nothing happened to her.

Last fall is the last time Carl had any contact with his daughter. He hopes the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling in his favor this week, changes that.

Gessell: “I am her father and I should have been her father from the get go.”

Delka: “Even the court ruled he should have been given the chance to be a father which he never was.”

Following the court ruling this week, Carl and his mother have tried Becker Co. Social Services.

Delka: “I have left three messages and they have not returned my calls and I call every day.”

But the victory for Carl gets complicated. Social Service has placed Serenity into foster care with a family in Otter Tail County that also has two siblings of Serenity, who have no connection to Carl. The goal is to keep those three kids together.

Carl has worked at Subway, and this winter was a jack of all trades for the sandwich shop. He says he can be a good Dad, and his mother says she would be there to help guide and assist her son when needed.

Delka: “A good situation now is to get my granddaughter home full time.”

Becker County Child Protection would not comment on the Appeals Court ruling, but the county attorney's office says the case is not about IQ or mental impairment, but a parent's ability to parent a child.

Serenity's mother had her parental rights terminated some time ago.

The Becker County Attorney's office has 15-days to appeal the Minnesota Court's decision.