Karen Riordan and Chris Ambrose met in court on January 30, February 1, and February 3, on a motion Ambrose made to get a protective order against Riordan.
They divorced a year ago.
Ambrose wants to ensure Riordan does not see her children – not at home or school. And he wants to stop the Frank Report from publishing stories about him or their three children.
CT Superior Court Judge Eddie Rodriguez heard from both parties during two half-day and one full-day sessions.
The parties will meet again before Judge Rodriquez on March 1 for a final session on what has been almost a mini-trial.
Both parties appeared without attorneys, though Ambrose is an attorney. He has not practiced law in more than a decade.
Ambrose was also a TV screenwriter specializing in legal and crime-based drama for CBS and Fox. His first show in 2002 was, ironically, Family Law, a show about an upscale law firm specializing in clients with high-conflict divorce and custody cases, and whose theme song was Edwin Starr’s “War.”
Ambrose’s last show was Instinct, which ended his career with an episode he was credited for writing, “Secrets and Lies.”
Instincts, Secrets and Lies had a lot of both, but they did not remain a secret. Chris Ambrose stole the story from another TV show.
The episode aired on April 1, 2018, and had the same storyline as “The Plain in the Prodigy” on the TV show Bones, which aired nine years earlier.
The story of Instinct plagiarizing from Bones was widely publicized, including in CBS-owned TV Guide, which had to out its TV show reporting The Video Evidence That Instinct Ripped Off Bones Is Damning.
Plagiarism, in and among Hollywood writers, is a cardinal sin. No producer can ever trust the man who plagiarized.
This was not borrowing a line or two from Shakespeare or borrowing from an unformed nucleus of a story plot. This was wholesale theft of another’s work and business fraud. Ambrose deceived the producers who paid him to write an original episode. Instead, he stole the work of another writer.
Ambrose’s fate is the same as everyone who goes to Tinsel Town and tries to profit from the creative work of others and call it their own. His pariah status in Hollywood was immediate, bringing Ambrose back to CT, unemployed, to his wife and children, from whom he had spent most of their young lives away.
One day in 2018, Chris Ambrose came home after losing his career in Hollywood.
Riordan was a stay-at-home mother, formerly a teacher, before the high-earning Ambrose urged her to quit her $90,000 per year teaching job, the year after she was awarded Distinguished Teacher of the Year in the Greenwich School District – in 2003 – so that she could accompany him to Hollywood.
There is an irony in that Ambrose arranged for the end of both his and his wife’s careers; hers with the highest honors as a ground-breaking and dedicated special education teacher recognized as among the best in an affluent school district with 700 teachers, and his, in disgrace, a man who steals the words of others.
The protective order hearings before Judge Rodriguez were ostensibly about the children’s privacy, and much of it focused on how stories published in the Frank Report harmed them.
The children were not heard in these hearings, though two of them are 16. Their spokesperson was Ambrose.
Riordan asked the judge to allow the children to come to court so they could tell their story – at least the two 16-year-olds. Ambrose objected. The judge ruled against it.
Ambrose mentioned the Frank Report 22 times in his motion for a protective order. During three days of hearings, he referred to the Frank Report perhaps a hundred times.
In addition to the harm Ambrose says his children experience from stories in the Frank Report, he admitted under oath that the Frank Report stories made him suicidal.
Rodriguez’s Earlier Role in the Case
Three and a half years earlier, in August 2019, Judge Rodriguez first heard the couple’s divorce and custody case. He awarded primary custody to the mother and ample visitation to the father.
He also ordered Ambrose to provide a complete financial statement to determine where the couples’ estimated $2 million plus in assets were.
On July 19, 2019, Ambrose first brought an action for the dissolution of marriage against Riordan, his wife of 16 years. The three children were then 13, 13, and nine.
Riordan raised them from infancy and was their “primary attachment figure.”
A switch in judges switched custody
For reasons unclear, and before Ambrose was required to provide a financial affidavit, a new judge was assigned to the case, Judge Jane Grossman.
The court assigned an attorney, Jocelyn Hurwitz, as guardian ad litem [GAL] to represent the children. GAL Hurwitz recommended a custody evaluation to determine the children’s best interests.
GAL Jocelyn Hurwitz billed about $200,000 for her time at $400 per hour.
A custody evaluation report prepared by Jessica Biren Caverly, a psychologist, concluded that the father should have sole custody of the children. In addition, for at least 90 days, they should have no contact by phone or in person with their mother.
Caverly concluded Riordan alienated the children from their recently returned home from Hollywood, now an unemployed father.
Caverly’s report, which she did not share with Riordan, was the basis of an emergency ex parte motion made by the GAL before Judge Grossman.
Both the GAL and Custody Evaluator Caverly recommended the children be removed from their home with their mother, and placed in their father’s home, with sole custody going to Ambrose.
On April 24, 2020, after an emergency hearing, where Riordan was not able to testify or bring witnesses, and based on the custody report of Caverly, her testimony, and the recommendation of the GAL Hurwitz, Judge Grossman decided Riordan alienated the children from their father and ordered them removed from her care.
The children were removed that day from the only home they had ever known and placed with their father.
Frank Report Involvement
On October 3, 2021, about a year and a half after Judge Grossman decided to change custody, Frank Report published the first of some 50 stories on the removal of three children from their mother.
The story came to my attention from a man who had experienced a custody flip based on a similar report by Caverly.
To develop my story, I spoke with friends of Riordan, with Riordan, and with her attorney. I tried to talk to Ambrose, but he declined to answer my calls or texts.
I read court filings. I found photographs and important information online, some published on social media by the children.
The children published information about their father including a series of screenshots from his computer or phone that suggested he was gay and might have an interest in Latino boys
As I searched for more information, I found online Caverly’s custody evaluation, the one Riordan had not been allowed to see before she lost custody and contact with her children.
If one took it at face value, it was not flattering to Riordan.
As I studied it, I saw that the evaluator, psychologist Jessica Biren Caverly, decided the mother and the children were lying about Ambrose and that he was credible.
Dr. Jessica Biren-Caverly wrote a custody report, and decided the father, Chris Ambrose, was telling the truth, and that the children and mother were lying.
Caverly documented that she met the children with each of the parents for a few hours, met with the children alone for a few minutes, and met with Ambrose and Riordan for an hour or so. She also administered written tests supposedly designed to identify so-called personality disorders.
I was surprised that, based on such limited contact, she could recommend that the children have no contact with their mother. It was clear from the report that the children did not like their father, were afraid of him, and wanted to live with their mother.
The Caverly report disregarded the children’s desires and ignored the pain children would feel by having their mother removed from their lives.
No matter whether Riordan contributed to the children’s dislike of their father or whether he did it through his behavior, as the children told the custody evaluator, Caverly’s yanking them from a happy and loving home, with their mother, determined the course of their entire future.
What was also disturbing was that Caverly wrote in her report, “Ms. Riordan appears to have a significant personality disorder… Ms. Riordan’s testing and interview indicated that she meets criteria for Other Specified Personality Disorder, Mixed Personality Features (F60.89).”
Caverly also wrote Riordan “did not meet full criteria for any specific diagnosis.”
As a matter of law and science, “appearance” is not conclusive. A psychologist doing a custody evaluation is unqualified by law, licensure or training to diagnose mental illness.
Riordan was not her patient.
As I investigated the case further, I obtained the reports of two psychiatrists who can legally diagnose mental illness. Riordan had seen them because of the trauma of this divorce and custody battle. Both physicians said Riordan had no mental illness.
Unlike Caverly, who spent a few hours with Riordan, not as her health provider, the psychiatrists entered into a doctor-patient relationship with Riordan and spent many hours with her.
Riordan tried to present the reports of her mental health, but Judge Jane Grossman accepted only the opinion of Dr. Caverly.
It was Kafkaesque.
The most surreal part came when, while reading the transcripts, I learned that Judge Grossman, who is not a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist, made her own “diagnosis” of Riordan’s mental health.
Judge Grossman said:
On April 24 of 2020, the Court received into evidence the psychological report [Caverly] of the parties and the children and heard the testimony of the evaluator [Caverly] who prepared that report…. That evidence revealed that the defendant has a significant personality disorder that impacts her ability to cooperatively work with the plaintiff. … if the defendant went untreated, her response to stress and particularly the stress of this divorce might present itself as a bipolar manic episode; and that continues to remain of paramount concern to this Court.”
Grossman said the Caverly’s report “revealed” Riordan has a “significant personality disorder.”
But Caverly wrote that Riordan “appears” to have a personality disorder. Changing the word “appears” to “revealed” made it conclusive.
Judge Grossman took it further. She said, “if the defendant went untreated, her response to stress… might present itself as a bipolar manic episode; and that continues to remain of paramount concern to this Court.”
Judge Grossman decided Riordan had to be treated for mental illness, that there was risk of “a potential bipolar episode,” and that the paramount issue in determining custody was Riordan’s mental illness, which no competent psychiatrist diagnosed.
Judge Grossman’s improper, illegal, and patently wrong diagnosis took three children from their happy home and placed them with their father.
In so doing, it changed their lives and put the mother at sea and oarless. As Ambrose had done to his writing career and his wife’s teaching career, he ended his wife’s career as a mother after 13 years.
Suddenly, the woman the father insisted be a stay-at-home mother was now a menace to her children – without a shred of competent evidence – based on the sole opinion of one custody evaluator.
I was flabbergasted. And when I found out that Ambrose paid the custody evaluator both for her fee for her report and her testimony in court before Judge Grossman, I decided to dig further.
Stay tuned for the next in this coverage of Ambrose’s motion for a protective order.