Few people can say that they legally have three parents, but 23-month-old Emma Filippazzo will be able to after a Miami-Dade county judge signed off an an agreement that a lesbian couple and a gay man are all the parents of the child, stating it on her birth certificate.
Hair stylist Massimilano Gerina of Miami Beach met lesbian couple Maria Italiano and Cher Filippazzo in 2006 when they became clients of his, eventually building a strong friendship. Italiano and Filippazzo were trying to conceive and approached Gerina first in 2008 and then a second time in late 2009, to be the father of their baby.
"They wanted me to be the father of the baby, because they liked me and my look and how I am Italian like Maria is," Gerina said. The trio originally had a verbal agreement where they discussed that "I was going to be the father of the baby and I would be able to see her whenever I wanted. I never thought about papers and I assumed that it was going to happen period, without thinking of the legal point of view."
According to Gerina's lawyer, Karyn J. Begin, "The insemination took place in a private setting, where he [Gerina] was the donor and the other parties were in communication with each other through the entire time. Gerina said, "We thought we were going to try for months, but it happened in an amount of days. It was so fast we did not even think about papers."
Although Gerina thought he was going to be a new father that almost changed when Italiano and Filippazzo asked him to sign paperwork stating that Gerina would only be considered a sperm donor and have no parental rights to the child.
"I was shocked, Gerina said, I did not see that coming and I felt a little betrayed."
That's when Gerina sought legal action from Begin, who had handled a similar case before. Although Begin warned her client that it going to be a long and painful process, Gerina filed a paternity lawsuit after the birth of his daughter Emma, who was born on March 10, 2011.
"I gave him options," said Begin, and we ended up finishing this case after two years of litigation, because both parties reached an agreement as to how they were going to approach their family for the future."
According to Florida law, sperm donors do not have any parental rights. However, Begin stressed that this case was not affected by this law and does not affect the current Florida law, because there is an agreement between the two parties.
After the two-year legal battle, when Gerina was not permitted to see his daughter, Judge Antonio Marin signed off on an agreement reached on January 31, granting Gerina weekly visits with Emma for several hours, at the mothers' residence or an otherwise agreed upon location. Emma's birth certificate was issued with all three parents' names on it.
"I am the father and I have visitation, but legally speaking they [Italiano and Filippazzo] are the parents, but that does not exclude me from Emma's activities or major decisions," Gerina says.
Gerina says that he is still good friends with the couple and "whatever happened we put it in the past," and that he does not think any less of them because what transpired.
Gerina says he sees his daughter all of the time now and is constant contact with the couple on how she is doing.