AfriGeneas Adoption Forum
" In 1991, Ms. Watson, then 43, adopted Ms. Spado, then 44, under a Maine law that allows one adult to adopt another. The reason, Ms. Spado has contended in court documents, was to allow Ms. Spado to qualify as an heir to Ms. Watson’s estate.
But less than a year after the adoption, Ms. Watson and Ms. Spado broke up. Then in 2004, Ms. Watson’s mother died, leaving multimillion-dollar trusts established by her husband to be divided among their 18 grandchildren.
Re-enter Ms. Spado with a claim: Because she was adopted by Olive F. Watson, she said, she is technically Thomas J. Watson Jr.’s 19th grandchild and is therefore eligible for a share of the trusts.
In Maine, Watson trust lawyers have been trying to annul the adoption, saying that the law was not intended for same-sex partners and that the women did not really live in Maine, as they only summered there.
“The purpose of adoption is to foster a parent-child relationship, not a sexual relationship,” a lawyer for the Watson trusts, Stephen W. Hanscom, told the probate court in Rockland, Me., last month. “An adoption on that basis would violate public policy,” he said, and added, “There was a fraud perpetrated on the court because Miss Spado did not live in North Haven at the time of the adoption and the court did not have jurisdiction to grant it.”
In briefs, Ms. Spado’s lawyers have said that no fraud was committed, that an annulment would put other adoptions on shaky ground, and that the “courts cannot unravel longstanding judgments based on third-party aversions to personal lifestyles.”
In Greenwich, Conn., where Ms. Watson’s parents lived, the family’s trust lawyers have taken a different tack, saying that Mr. Watson, who died in 1993, did not even know about the adoption and never intended for Ms. Spado to be an heir. A guardian ad litem appointed to represent Watson grandchildren yet to be born or identified, Henry W. Pascarella, has called the women’s 1991 arrangement a “Mephistophelian maneuver of a middle-aged woman adopting her still older middle-aged female lover ‘as her child.’ ”
A Greenwich probate judge ruled against Ms. Spado in 2005, but her lawyers have appealed, contending that the trusts cannot “be construed to exclude a legally adopted grandchild of Mr. Watson solely because that grandchild was an adult at the time of the adoption.”
Many states allow adult adoption, but the laws were primarily intended for situations like a stepparent adopting a stepchild later in life, said D. Marianne Blair, an adoption expert at the University of Tulsa College of Law."