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

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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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