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  1. Florida Politics

Charlie Crist's wife loses custody of two teenage daughters

Published Feb. 16, 2013

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

"She's completely abandoned them," Todd Rome said of his former wife of 14 years in a brief telephone interview Friday.

He said Mrs. Crist, married for 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 have become a challenge.

Mrs. Crist and ex-husband Rome had joint custody until Feb. 1 when a family court judge in New York 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 attorney for Mrs. Crist said they would have no comment.

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

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

"The children's needs haven't been met,'' Rome's New York attorney, Mark Heller, told the 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 with his daughters, Rome said he has no explanation for why Mrs. Crist, 43, cut off contact with his daughters. He then passed the phone to his wife of four-plus years, Vanessa Rome.

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

Mrs. Rome 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 out, so if they say anything that rocks the boat she'll say, 'Okay, bye. I have to go,' and hang up."

The former governor has in the past spoken warmly of his stepdaughters — he called them "our children" in 2009 — but Mrs. Rome said "he wanted no part of them." When in Florida during 2010, the girls constantly found themselves bored at political fundraising events with no one to talk to. Mr. Crist, 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. "Often they were left alone in the hotel room to order room service."

Mr. 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 wrote about one late-2011 court hearing attended by the Crists. The Post quoted a judge noting that their divorce agreement requires no child support for the daughters living in Manhattan and, "I also can't make her visit her children."

Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@tampabay.com.

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