Father Fights to Win Back Baby Girl Put Up for Adoption

Chris Emanuel's infant daughter was given up for adoption without his permission or his knowledge.
8:07 | 09/16/15

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Transcript for Father Fights to Win Back Baby Girl Put Up for Adoption
We begin here tonight with the story of one father fighting to get his daughter back under extraordinary circumstances. His girlfriend delivered the baby and put her up for adoption without telling him. My "Nightline" coanchor juju Chang shows us what this dad did next and how his actions are shining a light on the issue of father's rights. Sometimes all you can do is cry. You know? That's all you can do. Reporter: Unlike many fathers when Chris Emanuel remembers his daughter's birth, it feels him with pain. Missing out on the first moments of my daughter's life, not see that first touch, that first hug, you can't put it into words of how you feel. You know, you can only imagine. Reporter: Me missed those precious moments because his girlfriend secretly gave birth without telling him, texting him this picture of her baby bump eight days after she delivered. All of them were lies. Reporter: There was another agonizing twist. She had already put baby sylar up for adoption without his permission. What went your mind? Is she safe? Not knowing where my daughter is and who got her. You can only imagine how I felt. Reporter: So began a harrowing legal batting for Emanuel to win his baby girl back, navigating the thorny legalities of father's rights, all while Skyler's living with an a adopted family. My daughter was stole from me. So I asserted my rights but my rights were stripped of me. Reporter: It was three years ago when manual met Skyler lease mom at work. Polls right behi donndd tral we E wi'rthim O htraie as L he P parere Fors this face-off and even ild O operating Ro rehee H faced some Ver different legal an dhe T fantasyfight. Hundreds of millions of fans will spend hundreds of dollars apiece this season hoping they'll be the next one strike I rich why critics want to crack down on this. But first, the "Nightline" 5. Do you suffer from constipation or irregularity? Trust dulcolax. Stool softener it smoother. Designed for dependable relief. It daddy. I love you, Hearing racism but actually feeling it is totally different. Just like being punched in the stomach. When we left she reassured me we would continue to raise our child together. Reporter: Her mother says Emanuel is a liar. She said she disapproved of the relationship not because of the color of his skin but because he didn't have a job. His girlfriend started ed avoid meeting in person. She would say that her mom was coming. I didn't need to come. Why can't I come to the doctor appointment? If I can't come to the doctor appointment I can't think about missing my child's birth. Reporter: Her behavior raised red flags for his tight knit family. Four months before the birth his half sister and best friend suspected his girlfriend might give the baby away. I said, I don't think the egg donor is keeping the baby. He was like, no, she is, we're going to get married and we're moving in together. They had plans. I said, okay. But I still went home and started researching, started looking up father's rights in South Carolina. Reporter: South Carolina is one of at least 25 states that has what's called a responsible father registry. Unwed dads can sign up to be notified if their child is put up for adoption but very few people know about the list. In his home state 30,000 children were borne out of wedlock, yet less than 300 men signed up. The problem is if you don't register you could end up losing your parental rights. It can be used by lawyers for perspective adoptive parents to say, the person hasn't filed, hasn't put their name on the list, then we're free and clear to move forward with this adoption. Reporter: At first Emanuel didn't want to sign the registry, but when his girlfriend failed to show up at a family planned baby shower he got nervous. He called me up one day and said, hey, sis, what was that website that you and Joe were telling me about. He said, I'm going to do it right now. Reporter: Days later a knock on the door. And shocking news. Papers showing Emanuel's girlfriend had given birth a week earlier and had given their daughter to an adoptive family in another state. The only thing that mattered was me getting my daughter. Reporter: Emanuel refuses to give up his rights and immediately confronts his girlfriend who admits the deception. You misled me. You played me. You lied to me numerous times. I can't take back what I've done. Emanuel rush toes contest the adoption and hires attorneys. How critical was the fact if he registered? If he hadn't signed up for the registry he would have never known about this. No other recourse. He would have had no way of knowing. Reporter: Ironic twist, it's baby's Skyler's mixed race that gave Emanuel's girlfriend a loophole. On old South Carolina law only allows difficult to adopt children across state lines. Only kids 6 or older or with physical, mental, or emotional disability, or in Skyler's case, mixed race. What dad is not supposed to be there for their child? The greatest aspect a child can have is their father's protection. Reporter: But the out of state adoptive couple were lied to as well. Told the baby's father was O donor. They started off as friends. This is where the egg donor actually met. We worked at a manufacturing company drivinghe fact that she would communication skills. Reporter: They texted a the time. Affectionate messages soon turning flirtatious. Three months Emanuel was overjoyed to learn he was going to be a dad. I was happy. Who wouldn't be happy? That was my first child. At that tape I was like, I'm going to be here. We're going to do everything we have to dotalked about moving in. Let me meet your parents. I am. Reporter: Emanuelnew under no uncertain terms her were dead set against him. Even racism. You would be married. Reporter: What Emanuel did have were pages and pages of texts that he says prove he was an engaged and devoted dad to be. And that his then girl end from deliberately lied to him about his daughter's birth. After three long months the court made its decision, granting full custody to Emanuel. Yay! Reporter: Now a single dad, raising her with an enthusiastic asortment of aboutunts, uncles and grandparents making team Skylar. Jennifer says the out come of Emanuel's custody bat is rare. She says in most adoption cases dad's rights are often ignored what ch is why Emanuel is starting a foundation and talking to media outlets like "The atlantic." Fundamental rights, the right to part is a fundamental right. It can be trampled on easily in these scenarios. In your opinion what makes, you know, the right family for Skylar? In my opinion the biological family should be the first choice to raise children, if they're fit and willing. I don't think somebody who has money is going to raise a child better than somebody who doesn't. Reporter: Two weeks after the judge granted Emanuel custody the adoptive parents reluctantly brought baby Skylar back to South Carolina. She's my baby. What was it like to hold your daughter for the first time? I felt a breath for the first time, seeing her eyes, seeing her touch. It was like -- I lost a part of me. I felt whole again. Having my daughter for the first time where she's supposed to be. It's a moment that is -- irreplaceable. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm juju Chang in south Carolina.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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