Baby Leo: Wife accused of divorcing husband Samuel Forrest because 'he would not give up their Down's syndrome' son speaks out

Mr Forrest received over $400,000 in donations to help raise son after claiming his mother abandoned him

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The Independent Online

The wife of a man who received over $400,000 in donations after claiming she filed for divorce because he refused to give up their Down's syndrome baby has spoken out over his claims.

Samuel Forrest says he was kicked out of his family home in Armenia by his wife Ruzan Badalyan for wanting to keep their son Leo after being told by doctors he had Down's syndrome.

Mr Forrest claimed that he was then handed a serious ultimatum from his wife, who threatened to divorce him if he kept the child.

He told ABC News that after refusing to give Leo up, she stayed true to her promise and left him. He then set up a Gofundme page, which he claims is to raise enough money to bring up his son as single parent in his native New Zealand – and received $439,000 within ten days.

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Baby Leo's Gofundme page

Ms Badalyan has now broken her silence and says she supported the decision to move Leo to New Zealand – but claims Mr Forrest told her she could not have anything to do with the move.

She says her husband refused to support the possibility of bringing their baby up in Armenia, where there is “no extensive social infrastructure to help children with developmental disabilities, no governmental support”. 

The family were struggling financially as Mr Forrest did not work, she added, and these factors led her to the conclusion that she would not be able to raise a disabled child.

In a statement given to The Independent, she said: “Hardly had I recovered from the first shock, when the doctor approached me and told me to voice my decision whether I was going to keep Leo or not. I had to make the most ruthless decision in my life within several hours.

“I saw the evasive looks of the doctors, my relatives' tear-stained faces, received calls of condolences and realised that only a move to a country with such standards as New Zealand would entitle my son to a decent life. This fact was not disputed by my spouse either, who occasionally claims in his articles that the baby can't afford the life he deserves in Armenia.”

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Another picture of Leo on the Gofund me page

After this, Ms Badalyan said stories began circulating in the media containing the false allegation that she had given him an “ultimatum” to abandon their son or face divorce.

Writing on the Bring Leo Home page, Mr Forrest claimed Ms Badalyan had “refused to even look at or touch the newborn for fear of getting attached in a society where defects are not accepted, often bringing shame on the family involved”.

He said Leo was being taken back to New Zealand, where he could have a quality of life and acceptance that “is not yet possible in Armenia”.

Ms Badalyan said her husband refused to give her a chance to respond to allegations that she had left him because of their child.

“In the hardest moment of my life when my husband should be next to me and support and help to take the right decision, I could not find any support from his side," she said.

"He left the hospital notifying me hours later that he was taking the kid with him, that he is going to leave the country for New Zealand and I do not have anything to do with the situation.

“Without giving me any option and trying to find with me any solution in this hardest situation, he started to circulate the story on every possible platform without even trying to give me a voice accusing that I put him an ultimatum marriage or the baby, which is absolutely not true. I tried several times to communicate but he never tried to listen me and to find common solutions. The only response was the accusation from his part.” 

Ms Badalyan insisted Mr Forrest has never suggested she join him in New Zealand so they can raise their son together. “Neither did he tell me anything on the day we filed for divorce,” she said. “The only thing he kept saying was that he didn't want us to separate, whereas my question [of] what we should do always remained unanswered.

“As a mother who has faced this severe situation, being in the hospital under stress and depression, experiencing enormous pressure from every side, not finding any support from my husband’s part on any possibilities of giving a child decent life in Armenia, I faced two options: to take care of the child on my own in Armenia, or to abandon my maternal instincts and extend the baby an opportunity to enjoy a decent life with his father in New Zealand.

"I went for the second option.”

Mr Forrest has not responded to requests for comment from The Independent.

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