Father Massimo Gerina, parent 1 Maria Italiano, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Antonio Marin, parent 2 Cher Filippazzo and Emma.
A Miami-Dade circuit court judge has approved the adoption of a 23-month-old baby girl that will list three people as parents on her birth certificate — a gay man and a married lesbian couple. The decision ends a paternity battle that began days after the child was born.
Maria Italiano, 43, and Cher Filippazzo, 38, who married in Connecticut, struggled to become pregnant and made several unsuccessful attempts to become parents using fertility clinics. Rather than give up, the women approached Italiano’s hair stylist, a gay man named Massimiliano Gerina, if he would provide his sperm for artificial insemination.
Gerina agreed to the flattering request and the trio made a verbal agreement before Italiano conceived. Filippazzo told Reuters that the agreement meant she would adopt the baby and the lesbian couple would raise the child. The women encountered a problem two months before the baby was born when Gerina refused to sign a contract giving up all parental rights.
Under Florida law, sperm donors have no legal rights to children, but Gerina told the Miami Herald that he made the donation under the impression that he would be considered a parent to the unborn child. The women, he claimed, “wanted a father for the baby, not just the sperm.”
Gerina hired a lawyer and presented the lesbian couple with papers of his own. “My papers said I would have parental rights, a visitation schedule,” he told the Herald. “They hated it. They said this wasn’t what they wanted. I said, ‘Now that you’re already pregnant, you should have thought about that before.’ ”
He and his lawyer filed a paternity lawsuit soon after baby Emma was born on March 10, 2011, setting off two years of legal feuding, during which time Gerina was not allowed to see his daughter. Gerina told the Daily Mail that the women let him visit Emma once when she was two weeks old and then kept her away from him for the next 18 months.
A week before the Jan. 31, 2013 trial date, the trio and their attorneys settled the case privately. Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Antonio Marin approved the settlement Thursday and the court adoption clerk submitted paperwork for Emma’s new birth certificate, which lists her father and two mothers.
Under the judge’s decision, birth mother Italiano and wife Filippazzo will have sole parental rights, although the state recognizes Gerina as Emma’s father and grants him biweekly visitation rights. He will not be expected to pay child support.
“The mothers are in charge,” Gerina told the Herald. “I’m just going to spend time with her. They are the parents.”
“We’re trying to do the right thing for Emma,” Filippazzo said in a Reuters interview. “We want Emma to have it all, and we believe by doing it this way, including him in a birthday or Thanksgiving, it’ll be a nice addition for her.”
“We believe the best interest for Emma is for him to have a role in her life, but not as a parent,” she said. “The role is this is mommy’s good friend who helped your moms have you because they wanted you so badly.”
Although the years of legal battling soured their relationship, the settlement negotiations helped the trio rebuild a friendship in addition to creating a system for Emma to have her father and her two mothers in her life. They are now talking about giving Emma a baby brother or sister.
“God forbid you don’t put together a written agreement,” Gerina’s lawyer told the three at the settlement hearing, “I’ll knock on your door and slap you all.”