Adopting Your Significant Other – Creative Idea or Creepy Notion?

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.… <Read More>

Court Says No Attorney-Client Privilege Between Children and GALs

Recently, the Supreme Court in Colorado held that the attorney-client privilege does not protect statements made by children to their guardians ad litem in dependency and neglect proceedings. See, People v. Gabriesheski, Colo., No. 08SC945, 10/24/11. The court looked at four areas of laws to make this determination: the attorney ethics rules on confidentiality, the statute that codifies the attorney-client evidentiary privilege, the statutes that address guardians ad litem in dependency and neglect proceedings, and a directive by the chief justice promulgated under a statutory delegation of authority to prescribe procedures for guardians ad litem in matters affecting children.

However, the court decided that while guardians ad litem are associated with legal representation, their main responsibility is to act on behalf of the child and their job is to make recommendations to the court in regard to the best interests of the child. There may be serious implications to this holding. Justice Alex J. Martinez of the court argued in his dissenting opinion that “[b]ecause children will no longer have the protection of the attorney-client privilege, guardians ad litem will be required to disclose information about their wards even when it is not in the child’s best interests to do so.” See, 27 Law. Man. Prof. Conduct 689 (located here).

A potential problem I see with the Colorado Supreme Court’s holding is if a child discloses accusations of abuse but later recants upon learning that his/her guardian ad litem will disclose the information to the court and in front of his/her parent potentially.… <Read More>

Disciplining Children v. Outright Beating: Where is the Line?

Earlier this month, a now-23-year-old woman posted a video on YouTube of her father, a family court judge in Texas (who, ironically, hears child abuse cases) who beat her after discovering his daughter was using the Internet on the home computer to illegally download music.  The video, linked here, is disturbing to say the least.  It begins with hearing the father off camera tell his wife, “go get my belt,” and continues for just over seven a half minutes of the father whipping his daughter on her legs and butt, while verbally abusing her.  … <Read More>

When Joint-Custody Doesn’t Work

The presumption for resolving custody disputes in New Jersey is typically to order joint custody between the mother and father, leaving the parents to work out the differences for themselves.  While this plan may be the ultimate goal of most divorcing couples or broken relationships, in many cases it tends to be more aspirational than practical.  Think about it: having joint custody of your children requires that you live within a reasonable distance of your ex-partner, you can amicably come to a consensus on decisions for your children, and you can tolerate one another to communicate efficiently and effectively.  But how many relationships really end on such good terms?  I beg to say fewer than we would hope in divorce cases.… <Read More>

Royal Prenup??

Prenuptial agreements are (somewhat) common in the United States, especially for those marrying couples who either or both have a significant lump of cash in the bank.  However, prenups are not as common in the United Kingdom, which begs the question – will Prince William and Kate Middleton sign a prenup before the most anticipated global wedding in the last thirty years?  With everything from the dress to the flowers to the bridesmaids being scrutinized, I cannot help but wonder if the couple will be signing a prenup so Prince William can protect his future inheritance from the Queen’s fortune (valued at $467 million).… <Read More>