CT Family Court Judge Gerard Adelman, who sits in Middletown, concluded the trial of Christopher Ambrose and Karen Riordan.
The trial was conducted via video conference. The dates were intermittent, with significant gaps in between.
On November 9, Judge Adelman, stung by accusations of bias made by Riordan’s attorney, Nickola Cunha, declared a mistrial.
Cunha complained that Adelman did not require Ambrose to tender to his wife any of the marital assets he admittedly took from his wife; that he did not require Ambrose to pay spousal support – which would have come from her share of the marital assets; and most importantly, he did not let the children see their mother despite their repeated cries that they preferred to live with her.
The children are 15, 15, and 11.
Much of the argument for the children not seeing their mother was based on a report by the custody evaluator, Dr. Jessica Biren-Caverly.
Ambrose’s attorney, Nancy Aldrich, objected to a mistrial, and Adelman retired to reconsider. A few hours later, he issued an order suspending the trial and referring the allegation of bias to Judge Thomas Moukawsher to decide if he should be recused.
Hearings were held by Judge Moukawsher, which resulted not in the recusal of Adelman but the disbarment of Riordan’s attorney, Cunha.
After Cunha was disbarred, Judge Adelman ordered the trial resumed in March 2022 and conducted it in person.
Riordan informed Judge Adelman that she could not attend in person since she was indigent, homeless, and out of state. Ambrose had confiscated her money, and she did not have funds to travel or retain an attorney.
Judge Adelman decided to resume trial without Riordan, and he completed the case in one day.
Ambrose has already written for the judge the final orders he wants Judge Adelman to sign, including that he keeps the marital assets and has sole legal and physical custody of the children, based primarily on the custody evaluation of Dr. Jessica Biren-Caverly.
Ambrose wrote in his proposed order:
When Plaintiff filed for divorce in July 2019, he requested shared legal and physical custody because knowing both parents is best for the children. Defendant never responded to this offer. Unfortunately, over the last 2 years 8 months, it has become painfully clear from Defendant’s [Riordan’s] conduct that she is not in a position to have legal or physical custody, and in fact it would not be in the children’s best interest. Therefore, in accordance with the recommendations in the custody report prepared by Dr. Jessica Biren Caverly (the “Evaluation”), Plaintiff shall continue to have sole legal and physical custody of the children.
Can Caverly Make Life-Altering Judgments After Only Brief Contact with Children?
Observe the importance given to the Custody Report by Biren Caverly, a psychologist. It is the sole report on record to back up the decision to remove a mother from the lives of three children.
The fee for her report was $12,000. Ambrose paid it since he had confiscated all the couple’s money. As one expert said, “asymmetrical payment sets up the condition for bias as Dr. Caverly is dependent on Mr. Ambrose for payment, not on both parents equally.”
Ambrose also paid Caverly to do other services, including testifying and helping to quash an investigation into Ambrose’s alleged pedophilia.
To understand the CT Family Court system, it is necessary to understand that judges rely on custody evaluation reports written by persons who barely know the family. Caverly met with the Ambrose children for a few hours, met with Riordan twice, and Ambrose three times, yet made life-altering decisions that impacted all their lives.
She based her recommendation to remove the children from their mother on three things:
Riordan alienated the children from their father because they expressed that they did not wish to spend time with him. Caverly blamed this on the mother. She did not consider the possibility that Ambrose was abusing them as the children claimed.
This extreme remedy of taking children away from the stay-at-home mother because they do not want to live with their [usually affluent] father is practiced in Connecticut Family Court. The mother is almost always blamed even if the father is the abuser, and the children have ample reason for not wanting to live with him.
2 Personality Disorder?
According to Caverly, Riordan “appears” to have an “unspecified personality disorder.” Over time, this has morphed into, by Ambrose and his lawyer and the GAL, whom he pays, that Riordan has been diagnosed with an unspecified personality disorder [she has not been so diagnosed], to she is “seriously mentally ill,” to she is “crazy ” to she is “batshit crazy.”
All without evidence.
To be clear, Riordan is not – and never was – a patient of Caverly, a psychologist who cannot medically diagnose anyone.
Curiously, Caverly states that Riordan appears to have an “unspecified” personality disorder. This suggests that Caverly cannot say which type of personality disorder Riordan “appears” to have.
There are, among others,
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Schizoid personality disorder
- Schizotypal personality disorder
- Emotional and impulsive
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Histrionic personality disorder
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Avoidant personality disorder
- Dependent personality disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
But Caverly could not say which it was that she thought Riordan appeared to have.
She only knows she has it but cannot specify which one.
3 Riordan is a Liar
Finally, Caverly concludes that Riordan was a liar and Ambrose, who paid her, was truthful.
Caverly went so far as to say, without evidence, that Riordan was lying about her allergy to soy.
Caverly wrote, “Ms. Riordan appears to have a significant personality disorder that impacts her ability to effectively co-parent with Mr. Ambrose.
Caverly wrote of Ambrose, “in regards to Mr. Ambrose’s mental health, it is believed that he does not have a personality disorder. Mr. Ambrose has been in consistent weekly therapy for some time, and his provider denied that he has a personality disorder.”
That was it.
With those two sentences regarding Ambrose and Riordan’s appearance of mental health or the lack thereof, three children lost their mother.
The argument that it is improper to rely on this report as the justification for removing a mother from the children goes deeper than that.
Caverly pointed out that Ambrose’s therapist says he does not have a personality disorder.
She does not report that Riordan’s present and past psychiatrists state that Riordan does not have a personality disorder.
Dr. Tamara Amiri, a psychiatrist, who treated Riordan for five years, wrote, “As l have told several people involved in the case, at no time under my care did I have any concerns about her mental stability or in particular her ability to care for her children. Towards the end of my work with Karen, prior to her move to Guilford, CT, I became very concerned about the actions and private behaviors of her husband Chris as explained to me by Karen.
“I have thus far spoken by phone to numerous people especially ln the summer of 2020, including the psychologist, Dr. Caverly, who did an evaluation of Karen for the courts, as well Dr. Robert Horwitz family therapist…
“My office has never heard from the GAL Jocelyn Hurwitz, which is most interesting given the concerns over Karen’s perceived abilities or lack thereof about the safety of the children. In fact, I fear that Karen is being vilified in her role of the mother, and I hope the same scrutiny is being given to the children’s father since I fear that they are frightened by him and do not feel safe in his care. They may be in imminent danger.”
Dr. Margaret Coffey, Riordan’s present psychiatrist, provided a rebuttal to Caverly’s report.
Dr. Coffey wrote “It is my professional medical opinion that Ms. Riordan is not mentally ill. Furthermore, she does not meet the DSM V diagnostic criteria for any Major Personality Disorders.
“When I met Ms. Riordan, she was in the middle of a divorce which was extremely difficult. She was anxious, stressed and concerned for her safety and the safety of her three children. She was worried because her husband (a lawyer and screenwriter of crime shows-a master storyteller) ‘is a pathological liar’. She was observing him to spin tales and lie about her and her emotional and mental instability.
“This mischaracterization threatened Ms. Riordan because this complete falsehood posed an existential threat to her and her children. Ms. Riordan has unequivocally shown no evidence of emotional or mental instability nor signs or symptoms consistent with a personality disorder.
“My initial assessment of Ms. Riordan was that of a high functioning woman who was anxious and afraid due to the ongoing turmoil with her husband. In spite of this upheaval, she was taking care of her children: they were attending school, therapy appointments and doing their homework…. she was an exemplary mother. At no time did I ever question Ms. Riordan’s ability to parent.
“When the court went in favor of Mr. Ambrose for custody, Ms. Riordan was devastated. Yet she continued to function at a high level, doing whatever she could to regain custody of her kids. She wrote letters, marshaled friends and family for support all the while enduring the agonizing loss of all contact with her children.
“Over the past nine months I have gotten to know Ms. Riordan very well. Her strength and fortitude during this time is remarkable. I have watched her in realtime deal with stress that would annihilate most people. She soldiers on in the face of adversity. Over the course of my
continued close observation of Ms. Riordan, I have not seen sign or symptoms that would lend credence to any experienced practitioner to consider an Axis 1 or Axis 2 diagnosis.”
Peer Review of Caverly
In addition to these letters, Robin Lynch, Ph.D., wrote a peer review of Caverly’s report.
She concluded: “Dr. Caverly’s analysis did not investigate the litigant’s contradictory account of the conflict that lead to their separation, drew conclusions unsupported by the data presented in the report or available in other court data, misused psychological tests to diagnose Ms. Riordan as mentally ill when there is no information to support this diagnosis, including from the tests themselves, and went against best practice in CCEs to diagnose in the course of a CCE, (AFCC, 2006), failed to report or overlooked data that was critical to the subject children’s best interest and safety, and did not consider alternative hypotheses for the information that she provided. As a result many questions about the subject parents and their three children relevant to the children’s best interest were not considered which is especially important given that the children have deprived of their primary attachment figure for the last eight months and are possibly at grave risk given what researchers know is at the root of accusations of alienation.”
A psychiatrist for one of the children, M, also weighed in:
M… feels that his father has made false allegations toward him and his siblings. He feels that his father is
trying to prove that he and his siblings are mean to him, and that he has used secret tape recordings “against us.”… He said that he feels safer and closer to his mother. “She takes my feelings more seriously.”
When asked how, he said that if he was with his mother and wanted to see his father, his mother wouldn’t stop him from going. But if he is with his father and wants to see his mother, he is forbidden.
He said that he feels comfortable talking openly with his mother, but he fears that he will be made fun of by his father;
3) He feels closer to his mother. He noted that his father worked a lot when he was younger and he has always been closer to his mother. He also worries about his youngest brother, whom he described as quite frightened by the sudden decision by the Court to have the children go live at his father’s house, without even being able to contact his mother to say goodnight….
“I believe that it is in his best interest psychologically to have a say in his custody arrangement. He is 13-years of age—an adolescent who is beginning to differentiate and try to find his own sense of identity. Being forced into a living situation that he feels is invalidating will be detrimental and, I believe, rather than facilitating a closer relationship, will only cause more animosity towards his father. I have had no reason to believe that Ms. Riordan, M’s mother, is not ‘an adult who wants the child, who has had a continuous and affectionate relationship with him, and who is capable of raising him.’
Soy Allergy Not a Lie
Finally, alarmed by the potential detriment to the children, Dr. Coffey, wrote to the Dept. of Justice.
The court has a copy of this letter evidencing the bias of Caverly:
Dr, Coffey wrote, “In the interest of achieving truth and justice regarding the custody of Ms. Riordan’s three children, I am providing some details of the conversation I had with Jessica Biren Caverly on March 6, 2020.
“During my telephone conversation with Dr. B-C, I was struck by what seemed to be a predetermined position that Ms. Riordan was incompetent and that she seemed to be probing me for evidence to support this position. She was not impartial, nor curious. She defended Mr. Ambrose in every situation we discussed.
“This was alarming to me because I was under the impression that Dr. B-C was hired to be impartial and make an assessment based on facts.
“During the single conversation (interrupted multiple times for Dr. B-C to tend to her children), I raised concerns I had regarding Ms. Riordan’s safety in her own home. I recounted the story of food containing allergens that my patient has a life-threatening allergy to (soy and almonds) being brought into the house by her husband Mr. Ambrose.
“I told Dr. B-C how upset and scared the children were about this and having to caution their mom to stay away from these foods when their dad brought them into the house.
“I suggested how dangerous this was for Karen, and how impactful and potentially distressing this was for the kids. Dr. Biren Caverly’s response was surprising. She completely dismissed the stories and said definitively that Ms. Riordan ‘has no food allergies’.
“I said, ‘well, that is not true, this is a medical fact.’
“Dr B-C said I was wrong and Ms. Riordan is liar and must be lying to me. Again, I was shocked at her assumption of guilt and no curiosity at all to discover the truth. As a medical doctor, I am trained and practiced in not only psychiatric assessment but a general medical assessment as well. This type of medical history would receive careful attention as it pertains to all of my patients, so I have an acute memory of Dr. Biren Caverly’s error in this portion of the history and the (at best) gross negligence in denying the truth.
“I was stunned by Dr. B-C defending Mr. Ambrose regarding all the stories involving his parenting. She had little insight into the behavior of teenagers and the way they speak and interact. Additionally, she completely negated the diagnosis of ADHD in one of the three children after meeting with the child twice!
“The diagnosis had been made by Dr. Dorothy Stubbe, a highly regarded child psychiatrist at the Yale Child Study Center, who had worked with this child for years.
“Dr. Biren Caverly’s recommendations to terminate therapies for all family members and initiate treatment with new providers were misguided, dangerous, and could be considered malpractice.”
Fair to Base Custody on One Flawed Report?
With evidence that Caverly’s report should not be solely relied on, and that there might be flaws in her custody report, one would think that Ambrose would have another report to bolster the findings Caverly made.
He does not.
One would think the judge would consider what experts say about the findings of Caverly.
He did not.
A supposed expert, paid by the father, recommended by the GAL, and dependent on the GAL for future recommendations, who the father also pays, and a judge all too willing to use this report as the sole justification for taking three children away from their mother, a woman who does not have the money to fight, is how CT Family Court operates.
It favors the affluent, no matter how they got their money.
This cannot be justice, and it cannot be allowed to stand. This must be fought for the children’s sake until this is righted.
If I told sophisticated and intelligent people outside of Connecticut that a corrupt, incompetent, reckless bad actor like Jessica Biren-Caverly could make a report such as she has – and that members of the judiciary would accept her judgment as gospel in determining the disposition of custody of children and that this passes as law and science in Connecticut – they might not believe it. They think too highly of Connecticut, a tiny corrupt state in the Union.
FR: Dr. Maxwell, you met Dr. Caverly for a couple of hours, and what do you think is wrong with her?
Maxwell: It appears to be an acute epileptoid manifestation with a pan phobic melancholiac with an indication of a neurasthenia corpus.
Frank: In other words, she is batshit crazy.
Next in our series, I will reveal how Ambrose put into his proposed order that he wants Riordan to pay him for the bad press he has gotten from the Frank Report.
Bad press, he writes?
He hasn’t seen anything yet.