FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | June 10, 2005
"Love, patience, and persistence, combined with a visionary judge and a little help from Dr. Phil has led
to a historic settlement agreement."
(St. Petersburg, FL, June 10, 2005) — On Friday, June 10, 2005, a historic settlement agreement was reached between Michael Kantaras, and his former wife, Linda Kantaras. Michael, a transsexual father, has been fighting in court for almost seven years to retain his parental rights to the former couple's two children, Matthew, now age 16, and Irina, now 13. 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 the children.
This case first made national and international news in 2002, when Court TV aired the entire three week trial live. Michael's former wife knew he was transgender when they married, but when Michael filed for divorce, she attacked the validity of their ten-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 800+ page ruling declaring that based on the extensive medical evidence presented at trial, Michael was legally male, the marriage was legally valid and therefore Michael was a legal parent, and that Michael was the better, more fit parent and should be awarded primary residential custody of the couple's two children. In July 2004, the Court of Appeal's reversed Judge O'Brien's historic Order, 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, Florida, who agreed to send one of their top mediators, Michael Carbo, to mediate the case pro bono. After two all-day mediation sessions, the parties reached a settlement.
Karen Doering, Regional Counsel, National Center for Lesbian Rights released the following statement:
"Today, love, patience, and persistence, combined with a visionary judge and a little help from Dr. Phil has led to this historic settlement agreement.
"Michael is relieved that his complete attention can now be focused on his children. We are grateful to Judge O'Brien for his fair and visionary ruling; to NCLR co-counsel Collin Vause, who continued representing Michael pro bono long after the money to pay attorney fees ran out; to Dr. Phil for helping to find a resolution that has allowed a loving father to remain with his children; to Michael Carbo for his skillful mediation; and to Linda Kantaras for agreeing to a settlement that serves the best interests of Irina and Matthew."
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.