Shouldn’t Howard and Anna Nicole have thought of this first? Mike Tolson of the Houston Chronicle reported that for legal and financial reasons, 48-year-old Houston air conditioning heir and Florida polo benefactor John Goodman has legally adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend of three years. Oh, Daddy!
The adoption, which took place in October 2011 but was not publicly disclosed until Tuesday, potentially allows [his girlfriend Heather] Hutchins to control a third of the assets of a trust fund he set up for his two other children.
A Florida judge called the action “surreal” and a step into a “legal twilight zone” in a recent related ruling. The purpose of the adoption, however, is likely rooted in practical financial matters. Because of her age, Hutchins can avoid the legal stipulation that does not allow beneficiaries to take from the fund until they are 35.
This does not seem likely to make her a popular stepmother, not that she can legally become one now.
Or can she? Florida statute 826.04, titled “Incest,” states that “whoever knowingly marries or has sexual intercourse with a person to whom he is related by lineal consanguinity . . . constitutes a felony of the third degree.”
But it appears the legal definition of “lineal consanguinty” only applies to blood. Wrote one Florida court [warning: graphic details if you click the link] in a 2009 underage sexual assault and incest case appeal:
[I]t is clear that the legal definition of incest is limited to persons who are related either by lineal consanguinity or collateral consanguinity. It does not extend to persons who are related by affinity or adoption, but not biologically by blood.
We are not alone in our conclusion. Numerous decisions rendered by courts in other states hold that incest does not encompass conduct between persons related only by adoption.
Who hears wedding bells?
The reason for all this weirdness is that Goodman is currently the defendant in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit, dating back to a 2010 car accident for which he’s also facing criminal charges of vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, manslaughter, and leaving the scene of an accident.
Tolson reported that the trust money is off-limits from the lawsuit, but this move essentially allows Goodman to take back cash from it, as his “daughter” can access seventy percent of her one-third share, which she can then choose to share with Goodman.
“By way of this adoption, John Goodman now effectively owns one third of the trust assets,” Scott Smith, who represents the parents of the young man killed in Goodman’s accident, told Jason Schultz of the Palm Beach Post, who first broke this entire story. “It cannot go unrecognized that he chose to adopt his 42-year-old adult girlfriend as opposed to a needy child.”
Well, nobody’s accusing him of altruism.
Goodman is best known for his obsession with and financial patronage of polo, including founding the International Polo Club in Palm Beach. The Houston Press‘s Randall Patterson profiled him in 1998, while the Press‘s John Nova Lomax covered Goodman’s background extensively around the time of the accident, in February 2010.
Also, last year Lisa Rab of New Times Broward Palm Beach reported that the trust in question bought Goodman’s mansion from him in 2002 for $3.8 million, then rented it back to him for $2,000 a month. Rab also reported that the Goodman family sold their company, Goodman Manufacturing, for $1.4 billion in 2004, though it was not clear how much of that money may have gone to John Goodman.
John, we’ll see you again in the January 2013 issue of TEXAS MONTHLY. (Seriously. Don’t worry. You’re gonna make the cut.)