This is another in our series on Kassenoff v. Kassenoff in the New York State Supreme Court in Westchester County.
The case began in 2019 and is still active – though Catherine Kassenoff may be deceased.
At the time of the divorce filing, Allan and Catherine had three children: Ally, Charlotte, and Josephina, ages 10, 8, and 5.
Allan made around $1 million per year as a partner with Greenberg Traurig – the 8th largest law firm in the USA – and had a reputation as one of the premier patent lawyers in America.
Catherine earned about $170,000 as an attorney in the Office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
New York State Supreme Court Justice David F. Everett was the initial presiding judge in the divorce case.
The Court appointed Carol Most as the attorney for the children and, on her recommendation, appointed psychologist Dr. Marc Abrams to perform a ‘neutral’ forensic custody evaluation to determine custody of the children.
The Court ordered Allan to pay 80 percent of Dr. Abrams’ fees, and Catherine to pay 20 percent.
On March 25, 2020, Dr. Abrams issued his custody report finding “parental alienation.”
Dr. Abrams said Catherine was “gaslighting” the girls to imagine their father Allan abused them.
He also said Catherine appeared to have an “unspecified” personality disorder.
Catherine worked at the Department of Justice, and during the immediate aftermath of 9-11, she was on the ground in NYC doing terrorism investigations.
She obtained top security clearance, which screened for instability or dishonesty. She was vetted again in 2015 when she went to work for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Catherine’s therapist, psychiatrist Dr. Anna Filova, MD, also did not diagnose any psychopathology and went on the record to say so.
On March 27, 2020, Judge Lewis Lubell, following Dr. Abrams’ recommendation, ordered Catherine evicted from her home and granted Allan full custody of the children.
Catherine could see her children only if a court-approved supervisor was present to watch and listen to everything said.
Allan paid Dr. Abrams $32,000 for his evaluation.
More than a year passed.
During that time, the attorney for the children, Carol Most, arranged for the court to appoint Dr. Susan Adler and Dr. Carolyn McGuffog, as therapists for the children.
Allan paid them.
Attorney Most required the therapists to breach the usual standard of care in treating children by ordering them not to speak to one of the parents – Catherine.
In court, Allan, his lawyer Constantine Gus Dimopoulus and AFC Most expressed a dramatic concern for the children’s emotional and physical safety should they see their mother alone, prompting Judge Lubell to rule that Catherine should not be alone with the children, not even for five minutes!
During the summer of 2021, Catherine filed a complaint against Dr. Abrams with the Office of Attorneys for Children and the Mental Health Professionals Certification Committee. She alleged misconduct, including a false diagnosis of her mental health, minimizing domestic abuse by Allan, his financial alignment with Allan, sexually harassing her and other women, and, based on Facebook posts, misogynistic behavior and gender bias.
On August 24, 2021, the Certification Committee removed Dr. Abrams from the Panel of Forensic Custody Evaluators – based on Catherine’s complaint.
After the Committee disqualified Dr. Abrams, the Court appointed Dr. Kathleen McKay for a second custody evaluation. In the interim, Dr. Abrams’ recommendation of no unsupervised contact between Catherine and her children remained in effect.
Catherine began to see Dr. Stephanie Brandt, a board-certified adult and child psychiatrist, formerly a custody evaluator, for weekly psychotherapy sessions.
According to Dr. Brandt, Catherine expressed great concern for the well-being of her children. She wanted to understand the impact of what seemed like an organized family court conspiracy against her as a parent and professional.
Dr. McKay worked on her forensic evaluation for more than a year. Dr. McKay saw Catherine with the oldest girl, Ally, but never had a parent-child visit with Catherine and her two younger children.
After several meetings with Catherine, Dr. McKay cut off communications with her, though she continued to see Allan for 17 appointments.
During that time, Catherine continued to visit her children under the supervision of social worker Jennifer Culley, who made reports to the Court about each visit.
Culley’s reports described ongoing rapprochement with Catherine and her children.
However, Culley reported that when Allan or anyone from his team was present at the visit, the children verbally abused their mother, showed disrespect, or acted afraid of her.
However, when Allan wasn’t there or anyone from his team who could report back to him, the children showed they were attached and unafraid of their mother.
On April 6, 2023, Dr. McKay interviewed Catherine’s psychiatrist, Dr. Brandt, by phone as part of her custody evaluation.
Dr. McKay began by saying she had never seen anyone ‘file so many motions’ as Catherine did in her divorce and custody litigation – implying this was a form of mental illness.
Dr. Brandt replied Catherine won most of the latest motions and asked why filing motions was an indication of anything but resilience and persistence in the face of what was, for her, a disaster – the loss of her children.
Dr. McKay did not answer.
Dr. Brandt said she thought Catherine had symptoms of PTSD and experienced panic attacks, which are part of this syndrome.
Dr. McKay said, “But no one else said that!”
Dr. Brandt responded, “Well, I am her doctor, who would have done that – and why does that matter anyway?”
Dr. McKay ended the call after about 15 minutes.
Dr. McKay’s custody report came out in the first week of May 2023. She wrote that Catherine should never see her children with or without a supervisor.
Even if the judge did not agree and allowed Catherine to see her children with a supervisor, Dr. McKay wanted Culley removed.
Culley’s reports did not support McKay’s goal of eliminating Catherine from the children’s lives. To the contrary, Culley reported that the children’s attachment to their mother persisted despite the pressure Allan put on them to reject her.
But Dr. McKay told the court that the two younger children did not want to ever see their mother and were afraid of her. The oldest was coerced to ‘like’ her mother, and her attachment was inauthentic.
Dr. McKay added that under no circumstances should the children ever see a psychiatrist – like Dr. Brandt – for therapy; the children needed dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), provided by a psychologist.
Based on Dr. McKay’s report, Judge Susan Capeci suspended all of Catherine’s visits with her children.
Shocked by this outcome, Dr. Brandt wrote to Judge Capeci, on May 9, 2023.
Dear Judge Capeci,
To be clear, it is well known that actively destroying an attachment to a parent is harmful to a child’s development.
Speaking as Ms. Kassenoff’s physician, it is also extraordinarily traumatic to her as a parent who has never been judged as mentally ill, unfit nor dangerous, except by unproven allegations that are part of this litigation.
…I know of no premorbid disorder, nor did any other clinician who examined her, other than the disqualified Dr. Abrams…
I do not know why Dr. McKay’s opinion of Ms. Kassenoff is so negative, but I can say that as her doctor, and with access to collateral sources such as the reports of supervised visitation and prior evaluations, I do believe that Dr. McKay is simply incorrect…
I do not find any psychopathology in Ms. Kassenoff unless you consider symptoms of PTSD- a response to a major stressor — to be a disorder. I have heard nothing that makes me concerned about her judgment. That she is an intense woman, and very upset and angry at what has occurred should be no surprise and is certainly no measure of a disturbance…
It is beyond me to understand how [McKay] can discredit my opinion, and the observations of Ms. Culley. We are the ONLY people who have had regular ongoing contact with Ms. Kassenoff, and Ms. Culley has seen her with her children many times…
And there can be no realistic reason for them to be afraid of her that I know, and it seems that they are not.
It is a fabricated inference based on [McKay’s] assumptions about the mother and not based on any data…
This absurd theory supports her idea that these children need to be ‘protected’ from some unknown psychological harm that Ms. Kassenoff presents.
To my knowledge, this is not based on any verifiable facts and should not be credited as anything but a narrative about this family that demonizes the mother and deprives the child of her.
To forcibly remove a parent from a child’s life is the worst possible outcome of this case. These children have a mother. Why on earth are they being treated as if she is a danger to them?
There is no basis for that besides a disqualified forensic, an angry husband’s allegations of mental illness by a lawyer, not a qualified professional, and now what sounds like a grossly distorted 100-page forensic report that reflects cherry picked data to ‘prove’ that Ms. Kassenoff must be so disturbed that she should lose her parental rights…
I do hope that the Court will reconsider this order ending Ms. Kassenoff s contact with her children. Destroying the attachment to a parent is one of the worst things that can occur to any child.
That is a bedrock principle of all developmental science.… I hope the Court does not enable this. No child should be taught to hate and fear their mother. And most certainly not-one as competent and loving as Ms. Kassenoff. Destroying a parent-child relationship that is not dangerous nor abusive is a recipe for eventual psychopathology in all three children…
On May 27, Catherine announced she was in Switzerland for assisted suicide. No one has reported hearing from her since.
Based on the bad publicity surrounding him, Greenberg Traurig accepted Allan’s resignation from his $1 million per year position in June.