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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Carole Crist loses joint custody of kids



The ex-husband of former First Lady Carole Crist has been granted full custody of their two daughters, after alleging that she has abandoned them and hasn't returned calls or messages in nearly two years.

"She's completely abandoned them," Todd Rome said in a brief telephone interview Friday.

He said Mrs. Crist, married for about four years to former Gov. Charlie Crist, has not seen or spoken to her 14- and 16-year-old daughters since June 8, 2011 and that even simple tasks like getting her signature on documents has become a challenge.

Mrs. Crist and ex-husband Rome had joint custody until a family court judge in New York on Feb. 1 granted him temporary full custody. Rome said he may seek full custody permanently.

"She probably will not fight it, because she didn't fight this one,'' he said.

Neither Charlie nor Carole Crist could be reached for comment Friday, and a local lawyer for Mrs. Crist said they would have no comment.

"This is a domestic situation, which is private," said Sam Heller, her lawyer. "Unfortunately, Mr. Rome has been untruthful throughout this process."

The court records in New York are not public, and Rome, CEO of Blue Star Jets in Manhattan, declined to provide a copy of the custody order. He did, however, read the judgement of the phone to New Times in South Florida, which first reported the ruling.

The children's needs haven't been met,'' Rome's New York lawyer, Mark Heller, told New Times. "She won't answer calls. Her lawyers won't answer calls. And we had no choice but go to family court."

Reached by phone as he was driving he daughters, Mr. Rome said he has no explanation for why Mrs. Crist has cut off contact with his daughters, who are at a fragile stage in their lives. He passed the phone to his new wife of nearly five years, Vanessa Rome.

"Anything that needs a co-parent signature becomes a complete ordeal, because she doesn't answer,'' Vanessa Rome said of Mrs. Crist, who used to visit her daughters every other weekend in New York City.

She said Mrs. Crist had no patience for the girls any time they complained about something.

"She doesn't like to discuss anything or be called 0ut, so if they say anything that rocks the boat she'll say, 'Okay, bye. I have to go.' and hang up."

Crist has spoken warmly of his step-daughters - "Our children," he called them in 2009 - but Vanessa Rome said, "he wanted no part of them" and that when in Florida during 2010 the girls constantly found themselves bored at political fundraising events with no one to talk to. The former governor, she said, also had no tolerance for any hint of unpleasant teen behavior.

"He would say, 'I'm not coming to dinner with you with that attitude,'" she said, while driving with the girls and Todd Rome. "Often they were left alone in the hotel room to order room service."

Rome has been outspoken in his criticism of his ex-wife's parenting and in 2011 sued her for failing to pay support. The New York Post quoted a judge noted that their divorce agreement requires no child support for the daughters living in Manhattan and, "I also can't make her visit her children."

[Last modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 6:08pm]


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