John Goodman, an heir to a West Palm Beach air-conditioning fortune has adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Hutchins. Goodman’s reasoning for this bizarre move is “for estate planning purposes and to ensure protection of both his and her minor children and the stability of all the family investments.” See Michelle Castillo, Fla. man adopts his 42-year-old girlfriend, CBS News (Feb. 2, 2012). By adopting his girlfriend, Ms. Hutchins is now entitled to one-third of the beneficiary interest in Goodman’s trust and will have access to her share immediately. With this adoption, Goodman now has three legal children, the other two of whom are minors.
This adoption comes on the eve of Goodman’s trial for a wrongful death suit. See Daphne Duret, Goodman’s adoption of his girlfriend challenged in court, The Palm Beach Post (Feb. 8, 2012). Two years ago, Goodman was involved in an automobile accident after running a stop sign that allegedly caused the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson. See Castillo article. Goodman now faces criminal charges involving driving under the influence, manslaughter, and leaving the scene of an accident. See Duret article.
The minor children’s guardian and the attorney filed a motion in Miami court, asking for the adoption to be thrown out. They believe that Goodman failed to disclose his upcoming trial to the judge who approved the adoption. Otherwise, the adoption will result in Goodman’s trust being split three-ways, with Hutchins netting almost $9 million, in addition to $5 million in extra money Hutchins may ask for each year, according to the agreement. The question which remains – is this adoption illegal, or merely against public policy? Should Goodman have married Hutchins instead?