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.
|Dr. Jonathan Sporn & Leann Leutner|
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.
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.
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:
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.
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...
Labels: child custody, custody dispute, destitute. postpartum depression, family law, in vitro fertilization, Jonathan Sporn, Justice Laura Drager, Leann Leutner