A guardian for Wellington polo mogul John Goodman's teenage children is asking a judge to toss out Goodman's recent adoption of his 42-year-old girlfriend, saying the move defrauded the court, blindsided the children's mother and shirked public policy on adoptions.
The paperwork, filed in Miami and attached to a Palm Beach County legal pleading last week, is the latest twist in the rare and perhaps unprecedented legal maneuvering from Goodman's lawyers as he contests a wrongful-death suit filed by William and Lili Wilson.
The Wilsons' 23-year-old son Scott was killed nearly two years ago in a car crash involving Goodman, who will stand trial next month on criminal charges of DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. Attorneys also are gearing up for a trial in the civil case, rocked recently by Goodman's adoption of his girlfriend, Heather Anne Hutchins.
Goodman's representatives have said it was a legal move to allow Hutchins to fight a company Goodman believes has mismanaged the trust worth several hundred million dollars he created for his two children.
The Wilsons' attorneys argued that the adoption made Hutchins' portion of the previously off-limits trust fair game for jurors to consider as part of Goodman's net worth if they decide to award the couple damages for their son's death. Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley last month agreed, and reversed his previous ruling keeping the trust out of the case.
Soon afterward, Miami attorney Joseph Rebak filed a motion in Miami-Dade court on behalf of the children's Delaware-based guardian ad litem, Jeffrey Goddess, asking the court to throw out the adoption.
"I have never seen anything like this in my 31, 32 years practicing law," Rebak said Wednesday of the adoption. "Obviously we think it's wrong and we are hoping to have it set aside."
Goddess and Rebak believe Goodman failed to disclose his upcoming criminal and civil trials to Miami Circuit Judge Antonio Marin, who approved the adoption. Though they presented no Florida cases, the attorneys for Goodman's children cited cases in five other states where judges set aside adoptions that went against the public adoption policies of each state.
Goddess and Rebak estimate the adoption, which splits in three the trust the children were previously to divide in half, will net Hutchins nearly $9 million — not counting the up to $5 million in extra cash the agreement authorizes her to ask for each year.
"If Mr. Goodman is bound to Ms. Hutchins, and feels as though he would like to protect her and take care of her financially, the obvious solution would be to marry her— not to make her his child," Rebak wrote.
Goodman has yet to respond to the motion, and no hearing has been set in the case before Marin.
But in the Palm Beach County civil case, Goodman's lawyers in court records have now asked Kelley to revisit his decision to allow a jury to consider Hutchins' portion of the trust, citing the new developments in the Miami court case. They have also asked Kelley to delay the trial until the Miami court rules on the adoption.