A wealthy New York woman owes her “rejected” daughter millions, a judge in the state ruled, after surrendering her adopted daughter as a teen following the girl’s adoptive father’s death.
The woman who owes her daughter millions after the re-adoption is Christine Svenningsen of Westchester. Svenningsen and late husband John adopted the girl as a baby from China, adding to their family of six and naming her Emily Fuqui Svenningsen.
Around the time of the adoption, Christine Svenningsen also became pregnant with a fifth biological child, to whom she gave birth. Emily was adopted in 1996, and in May of that year, the couple signed legal papers with clauses protecting Emily financially after her parents passed on.
John Svenningsen died a year later in May of 1997, but in the signing of the papers, ABC notes, the pair pledged to ensure Emily’s support as well as agreed to a clause not to surrender her to the care of others. The station reports:
“On May 6, 1996, the Svenningsens signed an adoption agreement stating that they would not abandon Emily or ‘transfer or have [her] re-adopted,’ and that she would be deemed ‘a biological child,’ according to court papers in the case. The agreement also stated that Emily had the right to inherit the estate of her adopted parents, who had established a pair of trusts for their children, as well as one meant solely for Emily.”
The evidence that John Svenningsen’s widow owes the “rejected” daughter millions only came into play years later. By 2003, Christine Svenningsen had been considering surrendering Emily and brought the girl to Connecticut boarding school, theDevereux Glenholme School. School administrator Maryann Campbell and spouse Fred Cass had spoken with the widow’s lawyers and considered adopting Emily.
By late 2004, Christine had “voluntarily surrendered custody of Emily to Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children,” ABC adds, and Campbell and Cass adopted the girl, unaware of the wealth her adoptive father had willed her.
Deciding that the widow owed her rejected daughter millions, Judge Leonard Austin opined that John Svenningsen had no idea his wife — who later remarried and spent millions of dollars on islands off the coast of Long Island — would put their child up for adoption and prevent her from accessing her trusts:
“It cannot be overly emphasized that Christine’s unilateral surrender of Emily for adoption more than eight years after the decedent and Christine adopted her was not foreseeable at the time the will, and the trust documents were drafted and executed by the decedent … [John Svenningsen] expressed an intention to include his adopted child in the absence of any reason to believe that his status as the parent of Emily would be terminated by her subsequent adoption many years after his death.”
The widow did not comment on the decision she owed her rejected daughter millions, but both Christine Svenningsen and her biological children tried to fight the case.