Friday, January 26, 2007

Charlie Crist, Adoption, and Legalities

here in Florida...

Yesterday, the story broke that there is a seventeen-year-old girl whose biological mother, Rebecca Townsend, has claimed that Charlie Crist, Florida's current governor, is the girl's biological father. The adoptive parents believe that it could very possibly be true, but they are more concerned about their daughter's well-being and privacy. They are not pushing for DNA testing.

The Tampa Tribune has reported that Townsend was in the process of a divorce in 1989 when she became pregnant. She claims that Crist is the father.

Crist has claimed that he is not the father, but that he signed an affidavit terminating parental rights to the child simply so the child would be able to be adopted.

In all of the coverage of this story, on the local news and in the paper, all of the speculation has revolved around whether or not Crist is the father. Will he take a DNA test? Is he denying paternity? etc.

I have yet to hear anyone touch on a much more important question, which is: If Crist knowingly misrepresented the facts on an affidavit, isn't that perjury? If he is not the father, then someone else was denied parental rights without proper legal proceedings. Only parents can terminate parental rights.

The current Florida adoption law does allow biological fathers to fight for retention of their parental rights, when the biological mother is desiring to put the child up for adoption. If the father makes no claim on the child, ignores the proceedings, and generally seems to have abandoned the child, adoption proceedings can take place without his consent. This means Townsend could still have put her child up for adoption without having a father officially fill out an affidavit terminating parental rights. Taking this route would take more time, but allows for a biological father to begin efforts to retain his rights.

According to information found at http://www.adoption.com/, Florida adoption laws state that consent must be issued by:
Statute 63.062
  • The mother
  • The father, if the child was conceived or born while he was married to the
    mother or he has otherwise established paternity
  • Any person entitled to custody
  • If parental rights have been terminated, the adoption entity with
    which the minor has been placed.

Parental consent is not needed when:

Statute 63.062(1)(c)

  • The parent has abandoned the child, which may be established from marginal
    efforts to assume parental responsibility.
  • Parental rights have been terminated
  • The parent is mentally incompetent
  • A guardian or custodian is found to be withholding consent
    unreasonably.

Is Crist isn't the father; ethically, we have some serious issues to discuss. First, we have someone who is well-versed in Florida law making a false affidavit. Secondly, there is an unknown biological father who, presumably, never had the opportunity to know about his child, or to have any choice as to whether he would have parental rights to it. It is deceitful and possibly illegal.

These events occurred over seventeen years ago. I have no idea what the adoption laws were like in 1989; and, I am sure that the statute of limitations for any criminal, or civil, illegalities has lapsed by now. Crist needs to address these issues. Continued stonewalling will only hurt him and fuel media speculation.

If Crist is the father.......

Although, I would personally be disturbed by a professional man in his thirties choosing to put his child up for adoption when he had the means to support it, that is a personal choice that he made which should not affect his career. It is more noble to give your child to a loving family, than to urge a woman to abort it. So, really that is a non-issue for me. The sticking point would be his repudiation of the child if he is the father. That would seem callous and unnecessary.

In this day and age, lying about past experiences is always much worse than admitting the truth. It would be very simple for Crist to say that the story is true, that it was a personal and very private decision, and that he would appreciate the public's cooperation in respecting the privacy of this seventeen-year-old girl. He would seem honest, forthright, and sympathetic if he handled things in a sensitive and humble manner. He would do well to take action in this manner if he is the father.

I am sure that this story will continue to play out in the following days and weeks. It is obvious that someone is lying. Either this woman is blatantly lying, which could be the case, or Crist lied about his paternity so many years ago.

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