What to Know
- The baby's mother died during childbirth in South Florida on March 2.
- The mother listed her cousin as her next-of-kin, not the child's father who lives in Cuba.
- After a paternity test, a judge ruled the baby will be in the custody of the father.
A Miami judge granted a Cuban father custody of a baby girl at the center of a dispute with U.S. relatives of the infant’s mother, who died during childbirth.
Family Court Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens ruled Tuesday that the child, Valeria, is the biological daughter of Yoelvis Gattorno, who lives in Cuba, and granted him custody of the newborn.
Gattorno's wife, Yarisleidis Cuba-Rodriguez, died during an emergency C-section on March 2. Valeria was born prematurely at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
Cuba-Rodriguez identified her cousin Nairobis Pacheco, and not the baby’s biological father, as her next of kin on hospital documents.
Pacheco told El Nuevo Herald last month that her cousin sacrificed a lot so that her daughter would not grow up in a Communist country and did not want those efforts to have been in vain. She told the newspaper that she never wanted to take the baby away from her father, but had asked for temporary custody so that Valeria would not end up in a foster home.
Cuba-Rodriguez had obtained a U.S. visa through a special lottery and arrived in Florida in October. Family members said she had planned on petitioning for husband after she was settled in the U.S. She died before the application process had been completed.
Gattorno arrived in the U.S. last week on a humanitarian visa to demand custody of his daughter. At Tuesday's hearing, the judge said he can take the girl to Cuba once she is medically cleared. It was not immediately clear how long it would take for doctors to allow Valeria to fly due to complications she suffers from a premature birth. Gattorno is legally permitted to stay in the U.S. for about three months.
The father told the court he wants his daughter to be identified on the birth certificate as Valeria Gattorno Cuba.
On Tuesday evening, he picked up Valeria from Pacheco's home.
"I'm going to hug her, tell her everything I have been wanting to say, kiss her," Gattorno told reporters outside of the home.
Meanwhile, Cuba-Rodriguez's 15-year-old daughter Flavia, who is not Gattorno's biological child, told Telemundo 51 that she fears being separated from her baby sister after already loosing a mother.
"If they take her away [to Cuba], I'm scared I won't see her grow up, her first steps, her development," Flavia said, choking back tears.
Gattorno told the station that he loves Flavia and Valeria will always be her little sister, adding she will be always be welcomed to see her where they call home.