Mamas vs. Papas: Two Sets of Gay Parents Fight for Toddler

It's the most unique custody battle in recent Florida history. And perhaps the most radical family court decision.

Katherine Alicea and her eight-year partner, Ana Sobrino, decided to have a baby about half a decade ago. Again and again, they tried sperm from anonymous donors. But Katherine -- a driven real estate agent, then in her late 30s -- couldn't get pregnant.

Enter their close friend, Ray Janssen, a handsome, gay Air Force veteran.

After some casual negotiation, he donated and Katherine conceived. In August 2006, a sweet and burbling baby whom we'll call Austin was born. Katherine put Ray's name on the birth certificate because she wanted the child to know his dad's name. That was a big mistake.

The baby was raised mostly by Katherine and Ana at their NE 24th Street home, a block from Biscayne Bay. But Ray and his partner Craig also spent time with the boy. "[Ray] made it clear he wanted to be involved in the child's life," counselor Sherrie Lewis-Thomas later wrote. He took Austin to baby music lessons. Sometimes he would sleep over at his "da-da's" Miami Beach apartment overlooking a canal.

Then, last fall, the mothers decided to move to California, and things got ugly. Ray sued Katherine in November 2008. The case tells the story of two sets of gay parents -- all of them loving and active in the child's life -- vying for custody. Call it the mamas versus the papas.

Says Ray's attorney, Gerald Kornreich: "[The ruling] is the most tragic of my career, and I will not rest until Ray is reunited with his son."

Opposing council Hugo Acebo says Ray surrendered his role when he let the mothers become primary caregivers: "Ray has changed his mind about his parental role... Katherine and Ana feel like their family unit is being attacked."

A motion for reconsideration will be heard in Circuit Court this Wednesday, July 15.

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