A Florida man has adopted his 42-year old girlfriend, allegedly to protect his wealth in the context of a wrongful death suit.
John Goodman legally adopted his girlfriend of two years in order to give her immediate access to 1/3 of a trust fund set up for his two children. The fund is estimated to be worth about $200 million according to one article.
Judge Glenn Kelley called the tactic “unprecedented.”
“The events which serve as the grounds for the relief sought by the plaintiffs border on the surreal and take the court into a legal twilight zone,” he wrote in an order allowing the plaintiffs’ lawyers access to the adoption information.
Florida state law provides that “a petition to adopt an adult may be granted if … written consent to adoption have been executed by the adult (and the adult’s spouse, if any)…”
Most adult adoptions are done to cement the bond between foster parents and foster children, or to give legal effect to an existing but informal parent-child relationship.
However, the use of adult adoption for less than legitimate purposes is not as “unprecedented” as you might think.
In Canada, adoption falls under provincial jurisdiction. Different provinces have different rules with respect to adult adoptions. In all cases, an application must be made to the Court. For example, in Alberta, an adult can be adopted “if it is not contrary to the public interest to do so.” In Manitoba, a judge will consider whether the “reason for the adoption is acceptable.”
The Ontario Child and Family Services Act only provides:
Adoption of adult, etc.
(3) The court may make an order for the adoption of,
(a) a person eighteen years of age or more; or
(b) a child who is sixteen years of age or more and has withdrawn from parental control,
on another person’s application.
Although this seems to provide no guidance with respect to the factors that the Court will consider, according to case law, the applicants must first satisfy the Court that there is a “gap in the proposed adoptee’s life created by the parent-child relationship that requires remedy through an adoption order”.
The Court will consider whether the relationship between the applicants has historically been one of parent and child. It will also assess the bona fides of the application.
In one case, the Court dismissed an application where it appeared that the application may have been made in order to assist the adult in gaining permanent residency in Canada.
In other words, Canadian Courts will look at the intentions of the parties, and if it is not a bona fide application that is consistent with the spirit and purpose of the adoption legislation, then it will be refused.
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