In the latest chapter of a high-profile custody dispute that garnered widespread media attention, the three Ambrose teens have found temporary respite with their mother’s cousin in Rockland County, NY. In the meantime, Ambrose is seeking their forced return and their mother’s arrest.
The battle centers around former Hollywood writer Christopher Ambrose, who is determined to force his children back to his home in Madison, CT, despite their strong preference to reside elsewhere.
The teens, previously placed under Ambrose’s custody after a controversial court decision, have been seeking refuge away from him. They face an agonizing choice: return to their father or risk being separated and placed in violent juvenile homes.
The Ambrose case reveals the complexities of the family court system, drawing attention to its flaws and the lives it profoundly affects.
Ambrose, who lost his successful TV writing career following allegations of plagiarism, returned to their CT home and filed for divorce in 2019. His career had previously taken him to California and New York City, leaving the mother, Karen Riordan, as their children’s primary caretaker for the first 13 years of their lives.
Riordan accused Ambrose of exerting financial control over their shared assets and stalking and harassing her during the divorce proceedings. Despite these allegations and the children’s clear desire to live with their mother, Ambrose fought hard for custody and had all the money.
In 2019, Judge Eddie Rodriguez granted Riordan primary custody of their children, Mia, Matthew, and Sawyer, while Ambrose got visitation rights.
However, court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Jocelyn Hurwitz, funded by Ambrose, called an emergency hearing before another judge, Jane Grossman, alleging that Riordan was alienating the children from Ambrose. This claim was supported by custody evaluator Jessica Biren-Caverly, also paid by Ambrose.
Judge Grossman ordered the removal of the children from their home with Riordan and gave exclusive custody to Ambrose. She prohibited the mother from communicating with her children based on these claims of parental alienation.
After two years of living with their father without contact with their mother, Judge Gerard I. Adelman upheld this decision in 2022.
A year later, the teens escaped from their father and returned to their mother in April 2023 – after three years with Ambrose.
But the determined father, backed by attorney Chris Goulden, sought to reverse this reunion. Ambrose attempted to have Riordan arrested, and the children returned to him, but these attempts were declined by both Judge Rodriguez and Judge Gladys Nieves.
Ambrose then went before Judge Thomas J. O’Neill, who had no family court experience. Over two days, Ambrose’s new attorney, Alexander Cuda, argued that Riordan had coercively manipulated the children, employing Jennifer’s Law, a statute enacted to protect victims of domestic violence in Connecticut. This strategic move insinuated that Riordan was exerting coercive control, a tactic often associated with psychological abuse.
Despite the children’s clear wishes to be with their mother, Judge O’Neill leaned on prior judgments and granted Ambrose restraining orders against Riordan on behalf of the teens, barring contact between the mother and her three teenage children for a year.
Judge O’Neill chose not to hear the children’s allegations of abuse and neglect against Ambrose.
Rather than return to their father, Mia (16), Matthew (16), and Sawyer (13) sought refuge in Rhode Island with their maternal grandfather. Ambrose went to Rhode Island and threatened to get a court order for the arrest of his children.
In Connecticut, Judge O’Neill held the mother in contempt and threatened Riordan with five years’ imprisonment if she communicated with her children.
Without their mother’s help and fearing arrest, the teens took refuge with a family friend in Westchester County, New York.
The situation was dramatic when Ambrose appeared at the refuge with Mount Pleasant police and Child Protective Services (CPS). The teens refused to return to their father, and after a four-hour standoff, police left, but a CPS worker promised they would be back with a court order to arrest the teens. The children fled that night after being told they would be placed in juvenile homes where they would face daily rape and beatings.
The following day, Ambrose escalated the situation further when the FBI and state police, acting on tips from Ambrose, performed a SWAT raid on a home Riordan was visiting.
The raid, however, found the teens were not present. Fortunately, no one was injured.
The children had fled to their mother’s cousin in Rockland County. The cousin, a respected figure in his town, allowed Ambrose to visit the teens but refused to force them to return with him absent a court order. Despite the cousin’s offer to ensure the children’s safety and schooling, Ambrose threatened to get a court order in New York State, forcing the teens to return with him or face placement in separate juvenile homes.
Meanwhile, Ambrose sought another judge in CT, Erika Tindall, to hear his latest motions to arrest Riordan for custodial interference and force the children back to his home.
This case has drawn significant attention due to its implications for future family court proceedings. It highlights the controversial use of Jennifer’s Law and the principle of DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender).
The situation remains tense, with the children caught in this contentious dispute. Judge Tindall is expected to hold a hearing next week on Ambrose’s demand to arrest the mother, telling the judge that the teens are brainwashed by their mother and that his love for them is boundless.
He has filed a motion with Judge Tindall where he seeks:
Riordan’s imprisonment: Ambrose wrote, “Incarceration has never been the plaintiff’s goal, but all remedies – including monetary sanctions and mandated therapy – haven’t stopped her… Unless she is held accountable, her contempt will continue, further harming the children who have yet to attend school as they have been secretly moved from state to state, to stay with the defendant’s friends and relatives.”
No Motions Without Preapproval
Ambrose seeks that Riordan “not be allowed to file any motion until she files a request for leave to file same and the Presiding Judge approves the motion.”
Take Away Kids’ Cellphones
Ambrose wants Judge Tindall to order Riordan “to cancel the children’s phone plans” within two days and force them to use iPhones he provides the teens. In this way he can monitor their texts and calls.
Ambrose wants Judge Tindal to order Riordan not to share “with any third party or entity, including but not limited to frankreport.com, familycourtcircus.com, and @therobbieharvey on tiktok.com, any information/narratives/photos/recordings about, by, or referencing the children.”
Force Info off of Frank Report and Robbie Harvey
Ambrose seeks Judge Tindall to order Riordan demand via email within two days of the order that @therobbieharvey on tiktok.com and frankreport.com, “a website published by her boyfriend, Frank Parlato, Jr., immediately remove the hundreds of photographs, records, audio/video clips of, and any references to the children.”
Force Riordan to Tell the Teens to Go Back to Ambrose
Ambrose wants Judge Tindall to order Riordan to inform the children that she wants them to return to Ambrose.
“The defendant shall comply with these directions within two days of the order,” Ambrose wrote.
Riordan Pay His Costs
Ambrose wants Riordan to pay the “costs incurred in preparing and prosecuting these contempt motions, including attorney and marshal fees and subpoena costs.
Ambrose, who took all the marital money and more than $150,000 of her inheritance, wants Judge Tindal to order Riordan to pay him $2,000 within ten 10 days.
Editor’s Note: Many of the claims Ambrose makes in his motion are false. In a future post we will try to show how many falsehoods Ambrose has made.