Transgender father wins custody battle in Florida

Following a seven-year battle, several court rulings, and an appearance on the Dr. Phil show, transgender father Michael Kantaras of Florida (pictured) has reached a settlement with his former wife that gives him full parental rights over their two children.

BY admin

June 10 2005 11:00 PM ET

A historic
settlement agreement was reached on Friday between Michael
Kantaras, a transsexual father in Florida, and his former
wife, whom he has been fighting in court for almost
seven years to retain his parental rights to the
former couple's two children. As part of the final
settlement agreement, Michael will retain all of his
parental rights and responsibilities and will continue
to share legal custody of Matthew, 16, and Irina, 13.
This case first made national and international
news in 2002, when Court TV aired the entire
three-week trial live. Kantaras's former wife, Linda,
knew he was transgender when they married, but when Michael
filed for divorce, she attacked the validity of their
10-year marriage and Michael's status as a legal
parent to the couple's two children based solely on
Michael's transgender status. In February 2003, circuit
court judge Gerard O'Brien issued a groundbreaking
ruling declaring that based on the extensive medical
evidence presented at trial, Michael was legally male,
the marriage was legally valid, Michael was a legal parent,
and that Michael was the better, more fit parent and
should be awarded primary residential custody of the
children. In July 2004, the court of appeals reversed
O'Brien's ruling, voiding the former couple's marriage.
The appeals court sent the case back to the trial court to
determine Michael's parental rights and custody of the
two children.
After hearing about the case, television
celebrity Dr. Phil, who had been focusing on child
custody issues all year, invited the couple to be on
his show and encouraged them to mediate the case for the
sake of the children. Linda, who had resisted efforts
to resolve the case for years, finally agreed. Dr.
Phil contacted Mediation Inc., a leading mediation
firm out of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who agreed to send one of
their top mediators, Michael Carbo, to mediate the
case pro bono. After two all-day mediation sessions,
which aired in May, the parties reached a settlement.
"Today, love, patience, and persistence,
combined with a visionary judge and a little help from
Dr. Phil, has led to this historic settlement
agreement," said Karen Doering, regional counsel for the
National Center for Lesbian Rights.

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