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Entries in Adoption (9)

Wednesday
Mar272013

Polo Tycoon Cannot Adopt Adult Girlfriend, Florida Court Says

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- A Miami appeals court Wednesday reversed a ruling that allowed Florida polo tycoon John Goodman to adopt his longtime adult girlfriend.

Florida's Third District Court of Appeals Senior Judge Alan R. Schwartz wrote that the adoption of a "paramour" or lover was "so contrary to the beneficent purposes of such an action" that it could not be confirmed by the court, according to court documents.

Goodman, a 49-year-old multimillionaire who founded the International Polo Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., made headlines when he adopted his girlfriend, Heather Hutchins, 42, in an attempt to preserve part of his fortune for her while negotiating a civil suit settlement.

Carroll Goodman, John Goodman's ex-wife and the mother of their two children, filed the appeal, according to court records.

Attorneys for Goodman and his ex-wife could not immediately be reached for comment.

In 2011, a trial court in Palm Beach County approved the adoption. As a result, Hutchins was recognized as another one of Goodman's "children" under the trust fund that had been set up by him and Carroll Goodman for their biological children in 1991.

According to court documents, John Goodman and Hutchins entered an adoption agreement contract that paid her $5 million immediately at the signing of agreement, another $3 million by the end of 2012, and lifetime payments valued at an estimated $8.75 million -- a total of $16.75 million over time. The agreement also allowed Hutchins to request additional amounts from the trust.

While the adoption earned national attention, Goodman found himself in the spotlight again in May 2012 when he was sentenced to 16 years in prison and fined $10,000 for killing a man in a drunk-driving crash.

On May 11, 2012, a Florida judge said in court that Goodman "left to save himself" after his Bentley slammed into 23-year-old Scott Wilson's Hyundai and sent the car into a nearby canal in Wellington, Fla., in the February 2010 accident.

Wilson, an engineering graduate, was strapped into the driver's seat and drowned.

At the time of the court case, Judge Jeffrey Colbath granted that Goodman could be released on a $7 million bond pending his appeal. As conditions for his release, he was placed under house arrest and monitored 24 hours a day with a GPS device, and could not apply for a new passport. His driver's license was also permanently revoked.

A Florida jury found Goodman guilty of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide last March.

Goodman claimed in court that his $200,000 car malfunctioned and lurched forward. He has also denied being drunk at the time of the crash that killed Wilson, although other testimony has contradicted him and his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit three hours after the crash.

Prosecutors said Goodman left the scene of the accident without calling 911.

"Scott Wilson's death was senseless," Colbath told the court at the time.

"His conduct from the moment the crash happened to the time he came to be in the custody of law enforcement was to save himself," the judge said. "It wasn't to go get help and it wasn't because he was disoriented. It was because he wanted to figure out a way to save himself. He had an opportunity to try to save Mr. Wilson."

"I believe what the jury believed -- that he knew he pushed [Wilson's] car in the canal. He knew there was someone in the canal and he left to try to save himself," Colbath said.

Last April, court documents revealed that Goodman agreed to a $46 million payment to Wilson's parents, Lili and William Wilson. Each received $23 million in the settlement.

In his decision Wednesday to void Goodman's adult adoption of Hutchins, Schwartz cited the crash, the trust fund John and Carroll Goodman had set up in 1991 for their two biological children, and that Goodman gave his ex-wife "no notice of the adoption proceeding."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan272013

Drill Sergeant Reunited With Baby That Mom Gave Up to Adoption

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An army drill sergeant whose estranged wife put his daughter up for adoption without his knowledge or permission while he was stationed in another state, has been reunited with the little girl, following a nearly two-year battle to get her back.

"I'm just happy right now. I'm with my daughter," Sgt. Terry Achane said. "It's about time."

The Utah Supreme Court earlier this month overturned a request by the toddler's adoptive parents to stay a lower court's December order that the child be returned to Achane, her father.

On Friday the original trial judge, Darold McDade who ruled in Achane's favor, held a transfer hearing that resulted in the little girl and her father being united this weekend for the first time since she was born 22 months ago.

"This is the first known case where the Utah State Supreme Court has removed a child from an [adoptive parent's] home and returned the child to the ... legal father," said Achane's lawyer Mark Wiser.

Wiser called the Supreme Court's ruling a "huge victory" for "equal parental rights," meaning one parent can't put a child up for adoption without the other's permission, and decried the adoption practice in Utah.

"Terry Achane believes that justice is finally taking place," Wiser said, adding that his client remains "heartbroken that he has missed 22 months of his daughter's life because of what happened. This is time that he and his daughter can never replace."

Achane, 31, was stationed in South Carolina on March 21, 2011, when his estranged wife, Tira Bland, gave birth in Utah and turned the baby over for adoption just two days later.

He initially believed that his pregnant wife had followed through on a threat to have an abortion. It was several weeks after the baby, whom he calls Teleah, was born that he learned the child had been adopted and was in Utah.

When Achane contacted the adoption agency that had facilitated the baby's placement with the couple, Jared and Kristi Frei, he was stonewalled, denied information and ignored when he told them he had not consented to the adoption, according to his lawyer.

In his ruling to restore Achane's custody, Judge McDade said he was "astonished and deeply troubled" by the actions of the agency, the Adoption Center of Choice, calling its treatment of Achane "utterly indefensible."

According to Achane, Bland gave the agency Achane's old address in Texas where he lived prior to being stationed in South Carolina, and suggested he would not consent to the adoption. The agency attempted to contact him once in Texas, but seems not to have made any other efforts to receive his consent, Wiser said.

The agency would not comment.

Achane knew Bland was pregnant and had taken her to prenatal doctor appointments in Texas, but Bland cut off all contact with him following his deployment to South Carolina and made arrangements for the adoption in secret, his lawyer claims in court documents.

Calls to the Freis were not returned. In an email to ABCNews.com, their lawyer Larry Jenkins wrote: "The Freis have asked us not to comment publicly about the case."

The Freis, however, have maintained a blog about the case where they claim that Achane "left [Bland] without any money, a car, or details of his whereabouts. Needing to act quickly for the best interest of her unborn child, and with incredible faith, fortitude, and courage, she put her child up for adoption."

In 2008, Kristi Frei was diagnosed with endometriosis and told she would not be able to conceive, according to the blog.

The Freis insist that it was they who tracked down Achane "several months" after adopting the baby, whom they call Leah, but to "our great shock and dismay" he refused to consent to the adoption.

The judge said in his ruling, however, that the couple knew that Achane had never been consulted and "acknowledged this risk but decided they wanted to proceed forward with the adoptive placement anyway."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec042012

Judge Orders Adopted Baby Returned to Father, Couple Plans to Appeal Ruling

Hemera/Thinkstock(AMERICAN FORK, Utah) -- A judge has ordered a Utah couple to return their adopted toddler to her biological father after it was revealed that his wife gave up the child without the father's knowledge or permission.

The couple, Jared and Kristi Frei, now has 60 days to return the 21-month-old girl to her father Terry Achane, a U.S. Army drill instructor. But the Freis' lawyer told ABC News that they will not give up the girl, whom they call Leah, and will appeal the judge's ruling.

"They believe the district court made some fundamental errors in its decision and they will raise those with the appropriate appellate court. Yes, they will appeal," their lawyer Larry Jenkins told ABC News.

Achane, 31, was stationed in South Carolina on March 21, 2011, when his estranged wife gave birth in Utah and immediately turned the baby over for adoption.

 

Achane is now thrilled with the judge's ruling and the prospect that he will be united with his baby.

"He is extremely pleased with what [the judge] ordered," his lawyer, Mark Wiser, told ABC News.

Achane initially feared that his wife, Tira Bland, followed through on a threat to have an abortion. It was several weeks after the baby, whom he calls Teleah, was born that he learned the child had been adopted and was in Utah, according to his lawyer.

When Achane contacted the adoption agency who facilitated the baby's placement with the couple, he was stonewalled, denied information and ignored when he told them he had not consented to the adoption, his lawyer claimed.

In his ruling, Judge Darold McDade said he was "astonished and deeply troubled" by the actions of the agency, the Adoption Center of Choice, calling its treatment of Achane "utterly indefensible."

According to Achane, Bland gave the agency Achane's old address in Texas where he lived prior to being stationed in South Carolina, and suggested he would not consent to the adoption. The agency attempted to contact him once in Texas, but seems not to have made any other efforts to receive his consent, Wiser said.

"Because there is ongoing litigation, we cannot comment at this time," the agency told ABC News.

Achane knew Bland was pregnant and had taken her to prenatal doctor appointments in Texas, but Bland cut off all contact with him following his deployment to South Carolina and made arrangements for the adoption in secret, Wiser said.

The Freis have maintained a blog about the case where they claim that Achane "left [Bland] without any money, a car, or details of his whereabouts. Needing to act quickly for the best interest of her unborn child, and with incredible faith, fortitude, and courage, she put her child up for adoption."

In 2008, Kristi Frei was diagnosed with endometriosis and told she would not be able to conceive, according to the blog.

The Freis insist that it was they who tracked down Achane "several months" after adopting the baby, but to "our great shock and dismay" he refused to consent to the adoption.

The judge said in his ruling, however, that the couple knew that Achane had never been consulted and "acknowledged this risk but decided they wanted to proceed forward with the adoptive placement anyway."

According to their blog, the couple has raised more than $20,000 to pay for legal fees.

ABC News was unable to reach Bland for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul182012

Immigrant Mom Loses Effort to Regain Son Given to US Adoptive Parents

Encarnacion Bail Romero cries after learning she won't regain custody of her child she knew as Carlos. (ABC News)(CARTHAGE, Mo.) -- In a controversial case that involved the rights of illegal immigrants and their young children, a Guatemalan mother lost her effort Wednesday to get back the five-year old son who was taken away from her after her arrest on immigration charges and put up for adoption in Missouri despite her objections.

A Missouri judge ruled the boy should stay with the Missouri couple, Melinda and Seth Moser, who took him into their home five years ago while his mother was in federal custody, where she attempted in vain to oppose the adoption proceedings.

"Nobody could help me because I don't speak English," said Encarnacion Bail Romero in an interview with ABC News.

The child, born as Carlos but renamed Jamison by the Mosers, has been with his adoptive parents in Carthage, Missouri since the age of 11 months.

The judge said the biological mother had no rights to even see her child, according to the mother's lawyer.

Asked if the Mosers would allow Bail Romero to see the child, the Mosers' attorney, Joseph Hensley, said the couple was "not willing to comment on that at this time."

"We're extremely happy about the decision," said Hensley, who also noted that the decision, "really puts the biological mom in a difficult decision in terms of staying in this country."

The ruling Wednesday reaffirmed the original decision by another Missouri judge who terminated the parental rights of Bail Romero, stating that, "illegally smuggling herself into the country is not a lifestyle that can provide any stability for the child."

The Missouri Supreme Court called the initial decision a "travesty of justice" and ordered a review of the case by a second judge.

Appearing outside the courtroom with tears in her eyes, the biological mother declined to comment. Her lawyer, Curtis Woods, said he would appeal the decision of the judge who he said ruled Encarnacion Bail Romero's parental rights had been terminated because she had abandoned him while she was incarcerated.

"I am very disappointed in the decision," said Woods.

The judge handed down the decision in a courtroom closed to all but the parties involved and their lawyers. There was no translator provided by the court Wednesday for the Guatemalan woman, who speaks only a little English.

The ruling allows the formal adoption proceedings by the Mosers to proceed.

The Mosers left the court without speaking to reporters, but they had previously argued in court that they could best provide for the boy and that they were the only parents that he knew.

"I could not love him more, had he come out of me physically," Melinda Moser said in an earlier interview.

The biological mother was arrested in 2007 on an immigration raid at a chicken processing plant in Missouri and has not seen her son since.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun242012

Texas Mom Accused of Trying to Sell Infant for $4,000

(NEW YORK) -- Megan Heichelbech thought she was responding to a standard adoption ad earlier this month, but her gut told her something was wrong the day she was supposed to buy a plane ticket to bring 4-month-old Eden back to her home in Florida.

"It was not an ad to urgently sell the baby," Heichelbech told ABCNews.com, adding that the costs and fees were similar to the ones that applied when she adopted her 5-year-old daughter.

Heichelbech answered the original ad on June 13, and said it asked for $6,500. She said she and the baby's mother exchanged photographs, emails and text messages.

The ad read, "I'm in search of an great family for my son. He is four months old and he is african american and hispanic. I can no longer care for him the way he needs to be. We are living in a womens shelter now. Im working with an adoption agency so there is an adoption fee they have set up. I believe its $6,500. Thank you and god bless."

However, when Heichelbech asked for the names of the birth mother's adoption facilitators and attorney, she never got an answer.

The birth mother -- whom police have not named but who lives in Dallas -- told Heichelbech to come get Eden, bring an ID and as much as she paid for her last child, which was $4,000. The Texas woman claimed the whole exchange would take 30 minutes.

Knowing the paperwork could take days, Heichelbech called Child Protective Services in Texas to ask about proper procedure, assuming the baby's birth mother just didn't know them.

"I called to ask them if I could find out ... if it's not legal at this point, what do I need to do to make it legal?" Heichelbech said.

That night, detectives called her and said they suspected the woman was trying to sell her baby for cash.

Dallas police arrested Eden's mother Friday on charges of child abandonment with intent to return, according to WFAA, ABC's Fort Worth affiliate.

An apartment manager entered a Shadow Ridge Village apartment that day to collect rent and found Eden alone. His mother was charged with a state jail felony, and the infant was taken into protective custody.

Heichelbech, who had all her paperwork in order and was expecting to bring home a baby, is devastated. She said CPS wants to try reuniting Eden with his family before any adoption can occur, but they said they'd keep her in mind.

"My 5-year-daughter ... keeps asking me, 'When is he coming home?'" she said. "I keep saying, 'Well, he's busy right now.'"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar092012

Civil Suit Settled With Polo Tycoon Who Adopted Girlfriend

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- A civil suit against a polo magnate who adopted his girlfriend in an apparent effort to protect some of his fortune has been settled, ABC News has learned.

Multi-millionaire John Goodman was sued by Lili and William Wilson for up to $100 million for the wrongful death of their son, Scott.

Goodman allegedly ran a stop sign in February 2010 and smashed his Bentley into Wilson’s Hyundai. He fled the scene on foot, according to police reports, leaving the 23-year-old to drown in a nearby canal. On a 911 call after the accident, Goodman tells an operator that he was “down the road to a barn.”

It was determined that Goodman’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit, police documents state.

Sources declined to discuss the details of the civil settlement.

The settlement came just as Goodman’s criminal trial is about to begin. Opening statements in the trial are scheduled to begin on March 13.

He faces charges of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a crash. If convicted, he could spend up to 30 years in prison.

The tycoon’s legal woes attracted attention in October when he adopted his longtime girlfriend, socialite Heather Hutchins, 42, in an apparent maneuver to shield one-third of his fortune from the Wilsons’ lawsuit.

Neither of his two children are 35 years old, the age they are given access to the family trust.

In total Hutchins could receive as much as $200 million over the next 40 years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb022012

Man Adopts Girlfriend as His Daughter Amid Civil Suit Over DUI Death

Palm Beach Sheriff's Office(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- A wealthy Florida polo club founder has adopted his longtime adult girlfriend in what attorneys believe may be a legal maneuver to protect his financial assets – which he estimates as "several hundred million dollars" – as he faces a trial for a drunk-driving incident that killed a 23-year-old.

John Goodman, 48, formally adopted Heather Laruso Hutchins, 42, in October 2011. The couple started dating in 2009. Goodman is the founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Fla.

West Palm Beach Judge Glenn Kelley wrote in a court order that the twists in the case "border on the surreal and take the Court into a legal twilight zone."

"The Defendant has effectively diverted a significant portion of the assets of the children's trust to a person with whom he is intimately involved at a time when his personal assets are largely at risk in this case," the judge wrote.

Goodman is being sued by Lili and William Wilson for the wrongful death of their son Scott Patrick Wilson, who had come home from college for his sister's birthday and died in a car crash on Feb. 12, 2010. 

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According to police, Goodman, who was driving a Bentley, ran a stop sign and slammed into Wilson's car. Goodman did not call police or an ambulance, and left the crash scene on foot, police said. It was determined that Goodman's blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

Goodman's civil trial is set for March 27, and his criminal trial for charges of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a crash is on March 6. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Neither of Goodman's two biological children have reached the age of 35, the pre-determined age at which they can control their trust funds. Since Hutchins is over the age of 35, her adoption entitles her immediately to a one-third beneficiary interest in the trust.

The court had previously ruled that the assets owned by Goodman's children could not be considered part of his net worth in the calculations for assessing punitive damages for the Wilson family, but the family thinks the adoption should change the ruling.

Goodman established the trust for his children in 1991 with $1.5 million. Within seven years, that trust had grown to more than $100 million and is currently worth "several hundred million dollars," according to his attorney.

"Nothing in this arrangement with Ms. Hutchins is illegal," Goodman's attorney Daniel Bachi said in a statement. "Everything that has been done by Mr. Goodman was done with the intention to preserve and grow the assets of the Trust for his two minor children, even should he personally be unable to continue his historical role in achieving these goals."

The judge wrote that a probate court with jurisdiction over the trust will determine whether the adoption is a "sham," as it relates to the children's trust.

On Jan. 25, a Palm Beach County judge denied Goodman's request to move the trial to Miami due to the negative publicity and attention he has received in the Palm Beach area since the accident.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May302011

War Dog Adoptions Rising but They Are Still Not Officially Recognized

Ablestock/Thinkstock(BURLINGTON, N.J.) -- As Americans across the country celebrate this Memorial Day by celebrating the men and women who have served in our armed services, another group of dedicated warriors goes unrecognized.

Officially, dogs that serve with U.S. soldiers are labeled "surplus equipment," but they are so much more to the soldiers they help on the battlefield.

Stories of the dogs used by SEAL Team 6 in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden have renewed interest in adopting the dogs as they retire from their military service. But adopting a canine veteran can cost as much as $2,000, as the military does not pay for the dogs' return trips home.

"They've [known] heavy training, combat, gunfire, explosions and just like a human, you should retire at some point and live a more peaceful life, and that's what these dogs need," Ron Aiello, president of the U.S. War Dogs Association, told ABC News. "They only have two, three years remaining in their life, and I think they should live it with a loving family and in a peaceful atmosphere."

Aiello knows how much a dog can help on the battlefield: his canine companion in Vietnam was named "Stormy."

"As a dog team, when you're out on patrol or mission, you live together 24/7. You never leave each other's side. You work together, you play together, you eat together," he told ABC News.

He had to leave Stormy behind in Vietnam, but he is now working to get war dogs reclassified as canine veterans, which would make it easier to adopt them since the military would pay to bring them home.

About 3,000 dogs -- mostly Dutch shepherds, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and Malinois -- are deployed with American forces around the world. Military officials credit them with saving thousands of lives.

Every year, about 300 of these "war dogs" are retired from military service and put up for adoption. Since the May 2 raid on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan, officials said they'd received more than 400 adoption applications.

The Touchstone family, who live in the Los Angeles area, was more than happy to adopt eight-year-old German shepherd Bagger. They have given him a loving home, although the military would not tell the family anything about the dog's history. In the past, these hero dogs were rarely as lucky as Bagger.

"Dogs have been fighting with U.S. soldiers for centuries...unofficially in the Civil War, and then officially inducted into the U.S. Army in 1942 for World War II," Rebecca Frankel, deputy managing editor of foreignpolicy.com, who writes "War Dog of the Week," told ABC News.

Only 204 of the estimated 4,900 dogs that were employed by the U.S military in the Vietnam War returned to the United States, according to military dog organizations. The ones that didn't make it back were euthanized, abandoned or given away to the South Vietnamese army.

President Clinton legalized the adopting of war dogs in 2000.

Last year, 338 dogs were adopted by families, police departments and other governmental agencies -- a fitting retirement for man's best friend, who has proved he can also be a nation's best friend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May112011

Pets Rescued from Southern Flooding, Tornadoes Need Homes

Comstock/Thinkstock (file photo)(NEW YORK) -- The tornado outbreak that struck the southeastern United States two weeks ago was the worst one in nearly 40 years.

At least 248 people were killed in Alabama; 34 in Mississippi; 34 in Tennessee; 15 in Georgia; five in Virginia; two in Louisiana; and one in Kentucky.

But the situation was not just devastating for people.  Hundreds of pets were abandoned or stranded, and many families that were left homeless were forced to relinquish their animals, said Beth Ostrosky Stern of the North Shore Animal League.

The Port Washington, New York organization deployed emergency rescue teams to help hard-hit animal shelters in Alabama.  The teams rescued dozens of animals.  The pets were brought to New York and given medical and emotional evaluations.  They will be put up for adoption on May 12.

North Shore is the largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization in the world, according to its website.  The organization works with a national network of shelter and rescue partners and provides information, education, and resources about pet adoption.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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