But a state appeals court has ordered the family to share â€” finding
Emily is still entitled to one-sixth of the trust funds her adopted dad
had left behind for his children.
Party goods magnate John Svenningsen died of cancer in 1997, just a year after he and Christine adopted Emily.
Christine Svenningsen, third from left, pictured with her family.
A mega-rich widow who gave up her adopted special-needs daughter after
eight years has lost her bid to also cut the girl out of her familyâ€™s
$250 million estate.
Christine Svenningsen had coldly contended her former daughter Emily â€”
whom she had adopted from China when she was less than 1 year old â€”
shouldnâ€™t get a dime from her late husbandâ€™s estate because she has been
adopted by another family.
The money-hungry mom was joined in her bid to keep Emily away from her
familyâ€™s bounty by her five biological kids, the adopted girlâ€™s former
The adoption agreement they signed guaranteed that â€śthey would not
abandon Emily or transfer or have her readopted, and that they would
deem (Emily) a biological child.â€ť It also gave her the right to inherit
John Svenningsen was true to his word â€” his will expressly provided
that any children they had adopted should be treated equally to their
five biological children.
But Svenningsen â€” who was the one who traveled to China for the adoption â€” eventually decided she didnâ€™t want Emily anymore.
â€śChristine maintains that Emily was a difficult child and unable to bond with the family,â€ť a probate court decision said.
â€śIn December 2003, Svenningsen placed Emily at the Devereux Glenholme
School based upon a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder,â€ť which
occurs when a person has severe problems relating to other people, Judge
Anthony Scarpino wrote.
â€śThe staff at Devereux did not concur with the diagnosis,â€ť Scarpino said.
Soon after Emily was enrolled, Svenningsenâ€™s lawyers told school
administrators she wanted to give the girl up for adoption â€” news that
thrilled Devereux staffer Maryann Campbell, who often cared for Emily on
the weekends with her husband and felt â€śbondedâ€ť with her. Campbell and
her husband agreed to adopt Emily â€” but Svenningsen never mentioned to
them or the adoption agency that she had been named as a beneficiary in
John Svenningsenâ€™s will.
They remained in the dark until 2007, when one of the lawyers for John
Svenningsenâ€™s estate told them there was a trust that could help with
her medical expenses. When they tried to find out more, they were
stonewalled â€” and then found out through court filings that she would be
entitled to a share of her first adopted fatherâ€™s estate at an
Svenningsen â€” who has made headlines by spending $33 million to buy
some islands in Long Island Sound â€” contended that since Emily was no
longer a family member, she shouldnâ€™t be entitled to a share of the
In a Feb. 6 decision, the state Appellate Division disagreed, finding
Emily was John Svenningsenâ€™s daughter and heir when he died. The court
ordered the family to provide Campbell and Cass with an accounting.
Scarpinoâ€™s decision said Emily has â€śthrivedâ€ť with her new parents, who declined comment on Friday.
Svenningsen, who remarried in 2010, could not be reached, and her lawyers did not return calls.
on Feb. 16, 2013 at 7:38 AM