After Isolating Them Through CT Family Court
Is Chris Ambrose becoming unglued?
Readers know Ambrose locked his wife, Karen Ambrose, out of their marital accounts. He snatched her inheritance. Then, he filed for divorce from Karen, a stay-at-home mother who cared for their children for 13 years.
In control of the money, Ambrose went to CT Family Court and purchased custody of the children.
The equation: Husband with money + CT Family Court = No Contact for mother with her children.
For two years, the mother has not seen her children. Yet, they continue to reach out in anguish. The children yearn to go home—home being with their mother.
The mother’s extended family and all the friends they grew up with are not permitted to see them. Isolating children from those they love is the paradigm of CT Family Court. But someone has to pay. In this case, his name is Christopher Ambrose. He is a former Hollywood writer who got caught plagiarizing and came home. He took the marital assets and filed for divorce. He took the children.
He paid for them. Matthew and Mia are 15. Sawyer is 11
One of the family friends is Michelle Pawlina, the godmother of Matthew. Having sympathy for these three children, she tried to see them. Here is her story.
Parlato: How long have you known the family?
Michelle: Karen and I have known each other for more than 35 years. I’ve known Chris for 25 years. I’ve been friends with him since they started dating. I was a member of their wedding party. I stayed in his apartment with Karen in Manhattan.
Parlato: You’re Matthew’s godmother?
Michelle: Correct. My son is 16, and Matthew and Mia are 15. Sawyer is almost 12. We have spent a lot of time together since the kids were toddlers. Once the kids were in school, it was more complicated. We still saw each other on vacations, holidays, birthdays, and many other occasions throughout the year.
And when he was unemployed, Chris would hang around. He’s a great conversationalist. So, we always got along very well. I felt we had a good relationship.
Mia age 2, Diane, Michelle, Fernando age 3
Matthew, Mia & Fernando, family friends
Parlato: When was the last time you saw Chris before today?
Michelle: The last time I saw him was in court. He ignored me.
The time before was when the kids were placed in my care. They had been evaluated at Connecticut Children’s Hospital concerning allegations of abuse by their father.
The Department of Children and Families intervened. They dropped the children off to me in the middle of the night. A person from DCF said they might be here for a while because there’s an investigation concerning allegations of the father abusing the children.
The next day Chris texted me and said, “I’m on my way to get the kids.” According to DCF, he’s not supposed to see the kids. So, I said to the kids, “Your dad’s on his way here. Do you want to go home with him?” They all said no. They were scared. They didn’t want to go back.
They had been told they could go back to the hospital. It was a safe place to return. So, I took them. Chris was livid. When he came to the hospital, he wanted me to leave before he came in. He did not want to see me.
When I testified, I said in court, “I’m here for the children. They’re my main concern. I’m concerned for their safety. I’m concerned for their health. I’m a nurse. So, I’m a mandated reporter. I have called DCF. But nothing’s being done.”
- Sawyer tried to explain his feelings to the Children’s Hospital. The hospital had evaluated the children and recommended that all three children NOT return to Ambrose but remain with their mother. Judge Jane Grossman, aided by the guardian ad litem, Jocelyn Hurwitz, hopped into action. Judge Grossman rescinded the DCF’s 96-hour hold and ignored the hospital recommendations. Ambrose paid the bills.
Chris Ambrose is a high-risk abuser, but he had the money, so he got custody.
Parlato: What happened today?
Michelle: I had invited Chris and the children to my house for Easter. I haven’t seen the kids in a year and a half. I sent him a text. No response. I waited a couple of days. Then I sent another text.
I said, “you know I’m putting Easter baskets together for the kids. I have my son, and then my brother’s got a couple of kids coming. They’re all middle school, high school. I’m putting treat bags together, so could you please let me know whether or not you’re coming?”
Then I thought, “these poor kids deserve to have a little something.” So, I put the bags together. I didn’t know if they were on vacation, but I thought I’d at least drop off the bags.
Parlato: You drove to drop the Easter baskets off.
Michelle: Yeah. I work in a school. I’m a school nurse. I also work in the psych field in the hospital. I pick up shifts in two different hospitals, psych, adolescent, and adult, so I’m very familiar with abnormal behavior. I came home. I got my dog and took her for a quick walk. Put her in the car, put the Easter bags in the car, and drove down.
It’s about a 45-minute drive. So, I drove up the driveway. And there’s a fence that runs along the front yard and the driveway. When I got to the end of the fence, I honked my horn because, you know, I’m not going to barge in. Just honked the horn-like, “Hey, I’m here.”
I stepped out of the car and walked around the other side of the car, and took the Easter bags out. Chris runs down the steps into the front yard and yells, “Get off my property, Michelle!”
I was shocked. I’m like, No, hello? No, how are you? Just, “Get off my property!” I was like, what?
And he said, “Get off my property, Michelle.”
I said, “I’m just delivering Easter bags, Chris.”
He said, “I’m calling the police.”
Karen hosted Easter 2018, an Italian tradition, and Michelle Pawlina’s family joined in (only half the gathering). Ambrose’s plagiarized episode of INSTINCT “Secrets and Lies” would air that evening, and Bones‘ fans soon outed his illegal acts. Unfortunately, it ended his Hollywood career.
So, I was standing there, and Mia came out of the garage. I hugged her because I hadn’t seen her for so long, telling her I loved her, and out he came again. Chris came over and stood next to us and told me, “You need to leave.”
I told Chris, “I invited you to Easter, and you never responded.”
He told me, “I don’t have to respond to you.”
I was like, okay. So, I said, “Well, I put these Easter bags together, and I thought I’d bring them down.”
He replied, “You’re going against the court order.”
I said, “There’s no court order against me. There’s nothing against me that says I can’t talk to the kids. I’m Matthew’s godmother. I’d like to see my godson.”
He said, “You need to leave.”
Then my dog, Casey, barked.
“Oh, Mia, do you want to see my baby, Casey?” I said.
She looked at Chris. Like, afraid, fearful. She looked at Chris like, “Is it okay?”
Chris was standing there with his arms folded with his feet apart, like “I’m gonna fight you.” And he said, “You’re pushing it, Michelle. You’re really pushing it.”
Then Mia offered to bring the bags inside to the boys because Sawyer and Matthew didn’t come out.
I said to Mia, “Well, this one’s for Matthew, the blue one’s for Sawyer. Thank you so much for bringing them in.”
And they turned around and went back. Chris would not let Mia get too far away from him. Like physically. Like a bully, he forced her into the house. So, they walked into the garage.
The Easter bags Michelle prepared for the children.
Parlato: How did Ambrose look when you saw him?
Michelle: He was very, very angry. His arms were crossed. He was very pale. He looked as if he was disturbed, irate over nothing. I literally dropped off Easter bags.
And he’s standing there with arms crossed, ready for a fight. His eyes were blazing. That’s the only way I could describe it. His eyes were piercing and blazing. He was just furious. Absolutely furious.
I drove home. I went and took my dog for a walk. I got back, and heated my dinner. And my doorbell rang, and I was like, “Who the heck is this?”
It was the Glastonbury Police Department. That’s where I live.
Lauren Caruso was the officer. And she’s like, “Can I talk to you?”
I invited her in. I saw her turn on the recording. And she said, “I’m here because the Madison police called to report an incident in Madison.”
I started laughing. “I brought Easter bags down to Chris and the kids.”
“Were you asked to leave the property?”
I said, “Yeah, he came out of his house and yelled at me to leave. So, I invited him to Easter. I could show you the invite. It’s on my phone. He didn’t come and didn’t respond, so I thought I’d bring the Easter bags. That’s all”.
The policewoman said, “I’m really sorry to bring bad news but he reported an incident to the police. He does not want you. You are not to trespass on his property anymore. If you do, you could be arrested.”
I still had my scrubs on. I said, “I’m a nurse. I’m really concerned about the health and safety of these children. Is this something you can report?”
She said, “I can’t because it’s out of my jurisdiction. But you could talk to Madison police.”
In the end, she said, “The resident of the property wanted you to be told in person. They didn’t want to just call you.”
Parlato: He does not want them to be in touch with anybody on the mother’s side of the family?
Michelle: No. No.
Parlato: Did you get a chance to observe Mia?
Michelle: Yeah, she’s not the girl. She’s my Mia, but she’s… (Michelle starts to cry) I’m sorry. You can tell Mia’s depressed, you know? I work with kids. I work with adolescents. I work with little kids at my school. I work with adolescents at the hospital. This girl is not happy. She’s flat. Her affect was flat. The clothes she was wearing were three sizes too big. It just broke my heart. It absolutely broke my heart.
Michelle and Mia in 2018.
Parlato: She was sad?
Michelle: Oh my god. Yeah.
Parlato: The whole impetus of Chris Ambrose and his paid GAL and custody evaluator is to claim she is unstable and unfit.
Michelle: Karen is one of the most amazing people. Smart, funny. She’d do anything for you. She’s a great mom. She gave up her career, which she was excellent at, to raise her kids. Chris wanted her to be a stay-at-home mom. So that was the deal they made. She would be home with the kids.
Parlato: Chris told me she never worked after they married, so why should she get any of the marital assets. But isn’t taking care of children work?
Michelle: It’s the most challenging job you’ll ever do. Chris wanted to pursue his writing career. He was never home. He was in LA. When he was writing in New York, he’d leave early in the morning to get into Manhattan and wouldn’t get home until after the kids were in bed.
She had great neighbors who would help her. Her dad would come over and help. She had the support and love of the people around her. She created that. They say it takes a village. She made the village for these kids. He was not around.
Parlato: Now, he’s always around. No one else is around the children.
Michelle: Chris lives five minutes from Hammonasset. Last year, I texted Chris, my mom, my son, and I were going to Hammonasett. I invited him to meet us and have a picnic.
He said, “I’m busy with the trial.”
I said, “OK, but the kids aren’t busy with the trial. Let me pick up the kids. You don’t have to be bothered. I’ll bring them to the beach. I’ll bring them back.”
He was like, “You don’t understand the pressure I’m under.”
I’m like, “Great, so then I will take the kids off your hands and take them to the beach.” I don’t know what he thinks I’m going to do with them. He claims parental alienation. He poisoned the kids against him.
From what I saw of Mia today, I understand why he’s hiding them. Because anybody who knows them, who’s known them for years, would know they’ve been brutalized, absolutely brutalized.
I was with Karen the day the court ordered the kids to Chris. And they weren’t even allowed to call her or say goodbye. And I was like, what?
What is happening? Like it just didn’t even seem legal to me. And she’s never been able to speak in court. So, I don’t even know how that’s legal.
Karen never got to speak or put on her case, but her children were placed on a “temporary no-contact order” by Judge Jane Grossman that has been going on for two years.
Parlato: It’s shocking.
Michelle: He’s now threatening me. Like, what have I done? I delivered Easter bags. I don’t get his venom. He’s a sick man. He’s not behaving logically. I know he’s got a terrible temper. Today, when he came out furious, screaming for no reason, I knew he was over the edge.
- Chris Ambrose
Parlato: How did he wind up with sole physical and legal custody, and Karen can’t see them?
Michelle: It was a flip. Initially, Karen had custody. I’ve been through this with her from when she told me she wanted to divorce. She came to me in the summer of 2018.
She said, “Michelle, it’s gotten terrible. I need to get a divorce.”
I had been through a divorce when my son was two. I said, “You need to get your ducks in a row. Don’t tell Chris yet. Figure out where you’re going to live. You got three kids. Figure out how you’re going to do this.”
Unfortunately, and she’ll tell you herself, Karen told him. He turned around and filed against her. Chris had no intention of divorcing her until he found she wanted to leave him. Then he was in the driver’s seat.
He comes up with his parental alienation BS. Karen found a note on his desk regarding parental alienation. They were still living together. So, he planned this whole thing. He’s a smart guy. And he’s a lawyer. He researched all the players, including Jocelyn Hurwitz, for guardian ad litem.
Chris’s note identifies concerns about the implications of his multiple, multi-year affairs that would impact custody and child support payments. His legal remedy: “PARENTAL ALIENATION.”
Parlato: The first judge granted her primary custody?
Michelle: Initially, she had custody. I remember she was trying to find a place for them to live. Chris tried to rent the house from under her. She finally found a place to live with her three children and two dogs. She’s like, “I just wanted to find a place where they would have a happy summer.” It was down by the beach. They were supposed to see Chris. I forgot what the visitation schedule was. None of the kids wanted to see him. None of them wanted to go. No matter what she did, none of the kids wanted to go.
Parlato: She wasn’t alienating?
Michelle: No. And Chris became more and more controlling. He was getting more irrational. Mia, for instance, was a fantastic gymnast. He was supposed to take her. He wasn’t taking her. Matthew had guitar lessons. I don’t think he was doing that. Like he was not fulfilling his end of the bargain. The kids were giving Karen a hard time because they did not want to visit him. She was standing on her head to try to get them to go. They did go begrudgingly.
And then it all got flipped. I took Karen to court. Chris somehow got the judge switched, and suddenly, Chris has full custody. She can’t see the kids at all.
Judge Jane Grossman ordered the children out of their mother’s house and had no contact with their mother, who had raised them since they were infants.
Parlato: In Family Court, the mother and children were not heard. Only the man with the money.
Michelle: Karen had evidence. I was with Karen’s original lawyer, Rick Callahan, when Karen said, “I think you should use this evidence.” The lawyer said, “No, no, no, we’re not going to do that. We’re not planning to use that.”
It’s like, why? Like, Chris is doing some underhanded things.
Parlato: Like what?
Michelle: Like pornography. I believe he is making money illegally. And the lawyer didn’t want to touch it. Karen had discs from computers as evidence, and the lawyer, Callahan, said, “No, we’re not going to talk about that.”
Attorney Callahan and GAL Hurwitz refused to allow evidence that might question Ambrose’s competence.
Parlato: Perhaps Karen’s and Chris’ lawyers, Nancy Aldrich and Callahan, already decided that Chris would get custody. He had the money. Maybe Karen’s lawyer made a collusive agreement with Chris’ lawyer.
Michelle: Either Karen’s lawyer was a bumbling idiot, or he colluded.
On that horrible day when the kids were ordered out of their home, to go live with their father without saying goodbye to their mother, I had to drive Karen over to her attorney to turn over her phone and her computer so she could in no way contact the kids. At that point, I told Karen that we needed to switch lawyers.
So, we drive over to attorney Edward Nusbaum’s office. He had been recommended by somebody in Westport. And we go over there and, boy, have I heard stories about that guy. He would call me all the time. He wanted to know how much their house was worth. I said, “Excuse me? I don’t know, maybe a million?” He wanted to know how much Karen could pay him. It was all about the money.
Parlato: Is Karen crazy? That’s what they’re trying to make her out to be to justify this theft of the children’s happiness.
Michelle: Not at all. I think most people would have crumbled under this woman’s pressure. I don’t know how she’s still holding it together. To not be able to talk to your kids for two years and not see them, not talk to them.
Parlato: She was the stay-at-home mother. She was all-in-all for her kids. The primary attachment figure. And one day, Chris bought the children. Meantime, Chris is not working–
Michelle: Because he got caught plagiarizing. He hid it from her for a long time. And then it came out. He asked her not to say anything. So, she didn’t. She stood by this guy for years.
Parlato: She wasn’t alienating the kids? She wasn’t trying to turn the kids against him?
Michelle: I’ve been on vacation with them. There was never anything derogatory said about Chris.
Parlato: Do you know who Dr. Jessica Biren Caverly is? She’s the custody evaluator that decided that Karen was alienating the children. Therefore, they took the kids away from Karen on the strength of this woman’s bought-and-paid opinion.
Michelle: I was asked to write a collateral letter on behalf of the children because I’ve been with this whole thing since the beginning. I wrote a letter about Karen’s character and spent a long time on it. It was sent in. Dr. Caverly never called me. Never called any of the people who knew the kids well.
Parlato: She called all of Chris’s contacts; people who barely knew the kids.
Michelle: Chris is paying the bills.
Parlato: Is it your understanding that Chris confiscated the marital assets?
Michelle: That’s the other sick thing. She wanted to divorce him. He finds out she’s going to do that. He served her papers the day before. He had already moved the money into his name. Karen had money. Her mom died before they got married. She inherited money. And Chris took it.
Parlato: And he won’t return it?
Michelle: She hasn’t received a penny from him. I don’t know how she’s surviving. Chris and his team were praying that she would just crumble.
Ambrose controls the marital assets. Memo: “Bring account [the only account Karen can access] to zero balance” for his wife of 18 years.
Parlato: That’s the way they play the game in Connecticut Family Court. The golden rule: He who has the gold, even if he stole it, rules.