Monday, February 18, 2013

Mom and Dad (and Mom): Florida Judge Approves Unconventional Family

A family court judge in Florida recently authorized the reissuance of a 22-month-old girl’s birth certificate. No big deal, right? After all, birth certificates get reissued all the time due to clerical errors or name changes. In this case, the reissuance was not because of any old typo. Instead, the toddler would be getting a third parent.

The case starts with a lesbian couple, Maria Italiano and Cher Filippazzo. The two had been considering having a child for a while when they met a new friend, a Miami hairdresser named Massimiliano Gerina. Gerina, a gay man, became fast friends with the duo. After a while the two approached Gerina and asked if he’d consider donating sperm to allow the two to have a child. At first he shrugged off the offer, but after some lengthy consideration he decided he was game.

The only condition to his participation was that Gerina wanted to play an important role in the child’s life. Not content to be an anonymous sperm donor, Gerina wanted to have visitation rights and get to know his child. The lesbian couple was on board and the three reached a verbal agreement laying out Gerina’s rights and responsibilities.

Things, unfortunately, got complicated the moment the child was born. Florida law (and the law of most other states) says that sperm donors have no parental rights to their biological offspring. As a bit of an aside, here in Ohio if the couple receiving the sperm knows the donor, the donor is only released from legal responsibility for the child if the procedure is performed with a physician’s involvement. Florida has no such law and Gerina would ordinarily have no rights or responsibilities for the child, something the lesbian couple eventually decided they agreed with. Going back on their verbal agreement, the couple now prevented Gerina from seeing the girl, denying him the role he felt he’d been promised.

Gerina, in turn, filed suit seeking to enforce their original verbal agreement. The Florida judge who presided over the case eventually sided with Gerina, at least on most issues. The lesbian couple will maintain sole parental rights to the child and Gerina will not be expected to pay child support. However, Gerina has been given visitation rights to the girl and has also been allowed to have his name listed on the child’s birth certificate.

Two moms and a dad certainly make for an unconventional family, but one that reflects the changing realities of modern life. If you find yourself facing the prospect of complicated divorce and have questions about your rights and options, contact an experienced Ohio family law attorney who can help guide you through the difficult process. Count on the expertise of Twinsburg family law attorney Carol L. Stephan.

See Our Related Blog Posts:
How to Establish Parental Rights for Unmarried Fathers in Ohio

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