Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sophisticated Cohabitation May Not Result in Child Custody

Dr. Jonathan Sporn & Leann Leutner
This is a sad tale, yet a sign of our times.  The case illustrates how, despite the oft-progressive status of our modern family laws, and the family law bar, there remains a stubborn bias in the family court that favors the bloodlines of a traditional family unit.

In New York City, Pfizer executive Dr. Jonathan Sporn (54), a divorced man, was in a committed relationship with Ms. Leann Leutner (40), also divorced.  A couple since 2010, the two were inseparable and intent upon starting a family.

According to a petition Dr. Sporn filed in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the couple resorted to in vitro fertilization following difficulty conceiving; they met with success by using donated sperm for fertilization.  Their baby, Lincoln Sporn, was born last July.

The family law dispute arose, however, when Ms. Leutner, a New York City lawyer and Yale Law grad, retreated to an apartment in New Jersey following an acute bout with postpartum depression.  She discharged herself early from the Mount Sinai Hospital, where she underwent psychiatric treatment, and committed suicide on New Year's Day by jumping to her death from the 14th floor apartment.

Dr. Sporn's custody petition alleges that Ms. Leutner, long-afflicted with mental illness, had stopped taking her prescribed Prozac at the time she was beset with acute postpartum depression.  Ms. Leutner also made prior unsuccessful attempts to take her own life according to the custody petition.

This grim Manhattan custody battle now pits Dr. Sporn against Ms. Leutner's sister from Illinois, who is also seeking custody of Lincoln.  At present, the infant has been placed into foster care somewhere in Gotham in accord with the applicable statute which characterizes the parent-less child as: "destitute".

Like every same-sex couple that splits-up, Dr. Sporn occupies the same position as the partner that lacks any biological connection to the child.  Without that connection, traditional family law says, "you lose" in the inevitable custody war following the split.

Next month, Justice Laura Drager must decide which custodial environment is better for infant Lincoln: the Upper West Side with "Dad", as Dr. Sporn refers to himself, or in Illinois with Lincoln's aunt.  The case is expected to be remanded by the appellate court to the family court for an evidentiary hearing; meanwhile, months will grind by and the infant will become a toddler while in the foster care of strangers.

We here at the Law Blogger wonder, if the aunt was not contesting Dr. Sporn's custody petition, whether he would nevertheless be engaged with a custody battle with the New Jersey Child Protective Services. 

Also, is the aunt's claim thwarting a potential adoption bid for Dr. Sporn?  If so, what a shame.

The case has been tagged here at this Blog, and we will report the outcome.  Let's see just how progressive our family courts can be...


Rod Lucas said...

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Jack Mason said...

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Timothy P. Flynn, Esq. said...

Jack, sorry but we are a U.S. law firm and do not know divorce solicitors in BC. Good luck with finding the right lawyer; we recommend that you do your homework over the Internet prior to making an appointment.

Timothy P. Flynn, Esq. said...

To "allycatz" and Rod Lucas: Thanks for the thoughtful post. We appreciate our readership.