The face of adoption has changed dramatically in recent years with the growth of independent adoptions, international adoptions and even adoption by gay couples. However, this expansion of the concept of adoption is not so flexible that it will also include the adoption of a 42-year-old girlfriend by her 46-year-old paramour. A Florida appellate court recently invalidated such an arrangement as a mere ruse to allow a polo mogul’s paramour to access his children’s trust fund.
The invalidated adoption proceeding is the culmination of a long fight by John Bailey Goodman, founder of the International Polo Club to divert a portion of his assets to his girlfriend in the wake of a wrongful death judgment stemming from his involvement in a fatal DUI collision. The appellate court found that the adoption was merely a fraudulent attempt to avoid liability for the judgment. The basis for the fraud finding was rooted in Goodman’s failure to provide notice of the proposed adoption to his two children, the parents of the wrongful death victim or the mother and guardian of his children.
The court found that the failure to provide notice to these interested parties constituted an attempt to perpetrate a fraud upon the court. The court also acknowledged that in addition to his attempt to shield his assets from the parents of Goodman’s DUI fatality victim, he was also embroiled in an attempt to seize control of the management of his children’s trust fund. The adoption of his girlfriend was considered a ruse to gain management control over his children’s trust fund.
The adoption agreement indicated that it would provide the “adopted” girlfriend $16.75 million over her lifetime, including five million to sign the adoption agreement, 3million by the end of 2012 and ongoing lifetime payments of $8.75 million. The court clearly expressed its disapproval of the ruse, “Even if the motivation and the means of securing it were not so reprehensible, I believe … the adoption of a paramour is so contrary to the beneficent purposes of such an action that no such judgment can ever be sustained,” said the presiding judge.
While the facts of this particular adoption are unusual, there are a couple of takeaways that would apply to more conventional adoptions. Notice to interested parties is a critical requirement to obtaining a court’s approval of an adoption. If notice is not provided to interested parties, the adoption process will not be approved. The other takeaway from this adoption is that the court will closely scrutinize the financial arrangements in an independent adoption process. It is important to consult with an experienced adoption attorney who can ensure that the financial arrangements in your independent adoption will pass legal muster.
If you have questions about an independent adoption or agency adoption in Kansas, we urge you to schedule a consultation so that we can answer your questions. Wichita, KS adoption attorney Thomas C. McDowell has been practicing law for more than twenty years. So please call us today at 316-633-4322 or send us an email.