A circuit judge in Miami-Dade county has approved a private adoption that will allow a gay man and a lesbian couple to be listed on the birth certificate of their 23-month-old daughter.
Maria Italiano and Cher Filippazzo were married in Connecticut. They declined to be interviewed but according to prosecuting attorney, Karyn J. Begin, had unsuccessfully attempted to conceive through professional fertility clinics.
They then approached Begin’s client, Massimiliano “Massimo” Gerina, a single hairstylist from Bay Harbor Islands.
“They asked me,” Gerina told The Miami Herald. “I was flattered by it. I thought what a great opportunity for me to have a baby.”
Growing up in Cagliari, Italy, Gerina never thought he could become a father. But when he moved to South Florida eight years ago, he encountered many same-sex couples raising children.
“It’s not unusual here. Where I am from it’s unusual. I grew up with the mentality that it would never happen,” he said. “When I moved here, I saw gay couples, lesbian couples having families.”
Gerina, Italiano and Filippazzo entered into a verbal agreement — he gave them his sperm and Italiano conceived. Filippazzo would later adopt the baby and the two women would raise it together.
Though Gerina considered himself a parent and not merely a donor, Floria law does not recognize the legal right of sperm donors in artificial inseminations. Still, Gerina claimed, the women “wanted a father for the baby, not just the sperm.”
Italiano became pregnant two weeks after the insemination and seven months later they asked Gerina to sign a contract, waiving his rights to the child. He refused. Instead, he hired Begin and served the couple with papers of his own.
“My papers said I would have parental rights, a visitation schedule,” he said. “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.’ ”
Shortly after the birth of their daughter, Emma, on March 10, 2011, Gerina filed his paternity lawsuit.The three parents battled it out in court for nearly two years with a trial set for January 31, 2013.
However, a week before the trial, Gerina, Italiano, Filippazzo and their attorneys settled the case privately.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Antonio Marin approved the settlement and the court adoption clerk submitted paperwork for Emma’s new birth certificate.
Maria Italiano, listed as Parent One, received “sole parental responsibility”; Cher Filippazzo, Parent Two, legally adopted Emma; and Massimo Gerina was recognized by the state as Emma’s father, with visitation rights at the mothers’ discretion.
Gerina can visit Emma twice a week for the next two years with the option of overnight visitations after she turns four. Italiano and Filippazzo will support Emma and have all decision-making responsibilities.
“The mothers are in charge. I’m just going to spend time with her,” Gerina said. “They are the parents.”
“We’re creating entirely new concepts of families,” Begin added. “If you have two women seeking to be listed as Parent One and Parent Two, that does not exclude listing a man as father.”
While she won’t say how much the three parents spent in legal fees, Begin said this entire situation could have been avoided if they had hired a lawyer and drawn up the legal paperwork from the start.
“All parties should go to an attorney versed in this area of law, because it is a unique area of law. Make sure it’s reduced to a written agreement with all the formalities,” she said. “Please don’t pull things off the Internet and play your own attorney. And just because a document is legally produced in one state, doesn’t mean that it’s legally valid in Florida.”
Advice that, hopefully, Gerina and the two women will heed, as they’re already discussing giving Emma a brother or sister.
“God forbid you don’t put together a written agreement,” Begin told them, “I’ll knock on your door and slap you all.”
Photos: Facebook via Miami Herald