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APR - 51997
EV -\LliA TIOi'i
These parents were court ordered to involve themselves in a custody evalualion \\1th me. This evaluation concerns their eighteen month old daughter who current Iv resides with the mother, with weekend visitation available to the falher. I met with Mr. Richardson on June 19 and 16. July 13. and September 13 for indiVidual hour long diagnostic sessions. In addition I met with him for one hour \\lth his daughter on October 4.1996. I met with Ms. Dombrowski for a two hour consultation session on Julv 10, 1996, a second two hour consultalion session on September 11, 1996 and a one hour consultation \\ith her daughter on October 4 .. 1996. In add ilion I administered the MMPI-ll to both parents. Further, I have spoken WIth or received reports from Joel Nance, M.D., Bernard Nobo, MSW, Mrs. Barger, who is Claudine's current counselor, Ms. Fisher who is the child's current day care provider In addition I have received and reviewed multiple faxes from Ms. Dombrowski, numerous police reports concerning the history of violence 10 this relationship and I have listened to and reViewed a taped telephone conversation provided to me by Mr. Richardson. That conversation was one between him and Ms. Dombrowski It is on the basis of the above contacts and inforrnation that 1 come to my findings and conclUSIOns. This was an extraordinanly difficult evalualion to conduct. In part that difficulty arises from the extreme violence whIch has been part of this relationship from nearly the beginning of their relationship. Further. that difficulty arises. and perhaps pnmarily, from my opinion that neither member of this couple was forthright in their approach to me and to the evaluation. Though it is to be e:-;pected that any parent undergoing such an evaluation Will "put their best foot forward," my assessment of each member of thiS couple IS that they are prone to fabncation and to blamlOg the other for all. or nearlv all. of the problems 10 their relationship. Qrr muillple occasions !lJ~~ provided information ~c1L\\:as.fr.a~kJ¥-and-boJdJ~_c.ontI.adjcloJ:y to the inforrnatlon that the other had ~SortlOg out where the truth lav in those SltualionS was not posslblt: Each member of thiS couple descnbes their relationship as beginnIng impulsl\ely Each of them descnbe it as "love at first sight." though they do not both use that verbalization. At the time that they met Mr. Richardson was mamed to hiS first ",ire Almo,t Immedlatelv upon meeting Ms DombrowskI he became intimately involved With her He \ery qUick Iv. from hiS pOint of View, began to proVIde for her financlallv and emotional I, She descnbes herself as being "sauck olTher feet" by hiS "charrn."
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Richard B. Maxfield. Ph.D.
As th~ir relationship deepen~d there b~;,!an a s~rious of vioknt interchanges. At least half dozen of those interchan!!es came to the attention of the police and on at least one occasion th~re were charg~s filed against bOlh of them. Mr. Richardson describes Ms. Dombrowski as extraordinarily moody. He tells me that she began the violence by "tearing up" a number of his possessions He lells me lhat he became violent in return as a matter of self defense. Ms. Dombrowski, on the other hand, describes herself as the victim of the violence which, in her mind, was essentially unprovoked. She tells me that she needed to defend herself agair.st him and that whatever damage she might have done to him or to his property was a result of her efforts of self defense. In reviewing the police reports of these various episodes it is impossible to sort out who did what to whom and in what order. Clearly, however, both members of the couple actively engaged in violent behavior toward one another. Both members of thiS couple accuse the other of currenlly perpetuating the animosity between them. Mr. Richardson, for his part, communieales that Ms. Dombrowski frequenlly calls him. He says that she has called him at two and four in the morning and has ridiculed him over some piece of current or past behavior. He tells me that she sounds drunk in the phone calls and he is able to hear the baby in the back~'Tound. He is fearful for the baby's safety at such times. For her part Ms. Dombrowski absolutely denies placing any phone calls to Mr. Richardson. She tells me that it is he who calls her. She says that she feels threatened and harassed by him and wishes to have absolutely no contact \\ith him. Again, it is impossible for me to sort out the veracity of either one of these claims or counterclaims. The animosity between these parents IS such lhat the exchanges of their babY need to occur in the presence of a third party. When I initiallv began the ~valuation Ihose ~xchanges were taking place in a hospital in Salina with a social worker participatIng. Toward lhe end of the ~valua!ion process the exchanges were transferred to the Salina police department. Following one such interchange there was some sort of disturbance b~twe~n Mr. Richardson and :-'Is. Dombrowski. Ms. Dombrowski communicales that Mr. Richardson followed her around Salina, that she w~nt back 10 lhe police station to report him for haraSSIng her and that the police "escorted him oul of town." ~Ir. Richardson l'ommunicates that he was simpl\' gettin;,! ;,!as for his Iruck. that Ms. Dombrowski drove by and that she made a false report 10 the police that he was haraSSing her and h~ IS d~eply offend~d that the police escorted him out of town. Again it is impossible for me to understand what may have transpired and who may be at fault in the above interchange What is abundanlly ckar is Ihal II is Impo~slhk le)f Ihese parents to (()-parc~1. Neither or them can sa" a civil \\'ord aboul the other. Each "I' them has extraordinary anllllOSIlY loward the other. Ms. Dombrowski communlcat~s thaI she is deeplv ft:arful of Mr.
Hal Richardson & Cia
Richardson, nOling, for instance, that two membe,s of her Batte'Cd Women's Task Force Group have been murdered by their e:<-husband's or boyfriend's. She says, convincingly, that she is fearful for her life. How much that IS conscious exaggeration is unkno"'l110 me. Me. Richardson communicates that Ms. Dombrowski, in his opinion. is psychiatrically disturbed. unable to be trusted and .::\traordinarily manipulative. He communicates that he cannot have a reasonable conversation with her as she is a "liar" who will distort the truth to her 0"11 ends. Currently there IS virtually no communication bel\veen them in regard to their daughter. As noted above each of them says that the other one is making inappropriate and accusatory or threatening phone calls to the other, both, however, admit that they are unable to have any1hing approachIng a ciVIl discussion about their daughter or her circumstance. Each member oftne couple accuses the other onc of having a problem WIth either alcohol or substances. Each of them denies the use of alcohol themselves. My assumption and confirmed by reports of previous evaluators, is that each of them has had diffieulty with the use of substances and/or alcohol in the past. Whether that is a current problem is unclear to me, though as noted they each deny those possible difficulties. There is little doubt that each member of this couplc has significant dit1iculties with their impulse controL Each of them involved themselves quite impulsively in this relationship. Further, each of them admit to interactions with the other during this period of separation when there are, so far as I know, mutual restraining orders. Each of them speaks ,~ithout thinking in their appointments ,0.th me. They provide information that is contradictory to what the other one has said and what they have previously communicated \vithoUl much, if any, awareness of having done that. Both members of thiS couple deny havIng problems with VIOlence that predated their current relationship. However, there is a police report available on Ms. Dombrowski that concerns a violent interchange with a former bovfnend. She has an e:\planation for that which she provides me in the consultation which completely. in her mind, exonerates her from responSibility. Mr. Richardson. despite Ms. Dombrowski's accusations to the contrary. communicates thai violence was never a problem in his first marriage. However, he freely admits that he has had trouble with the law in the past and that he has been in multiple fights. He provides the reasoning that he was alwavs coming to someone's defense who "'as unable to defend hIm or herself or that hc was simply attacked in an unprovoked wav. There is little doubt that both members of this couple suffer from a sigT1lficant psychiatric difficulties It seems quite Iikelv to me that each of them suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder In regard to that characterization Ms. Dombrowski has demonstrated a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships. Significant ImpulsivllV. affective Instability with ckar proneness to depression on the one Side and lrntabilitv or :Il1:\lelVon !he oth-:r She additional". has demonstrated Inte:lse and inappropriate anger. She dearlv has -:ngaged 111 dfons to avoid real or ImaginctJ abandonment. In fact. her greatest fear in regard to IhlS custodv c"aluallon IS the
complete loss of her daughter, perhaps, she says, from Mr. Richardson's kidnapping of the daughter. For his part r-.'Ir. Richardson has demonstrated a pattern of intense and unstable interpersonal relationships, impulSiveness, alTective instabtlity with periods of significant depreSSion though he denies inappropriate and intense anger his behavior suggests otherwise and I suspect that he suffers from feelings of boredom or emptiness, though I did not do a thorough inquiry In that area. The psychological testing demonstrates that both of these people likely minimize their difficulties in reporting their symptoms and behaVior. In addition, however, the testing would be consistent, \V1th the presence of Borderline Personality Disorder. Each member of this couple has a history of signl ficant disruption in family relationshIps. tvls. Dombrowski's hlstorv IS marked by multiple abandonmcnts by her mother, placcmenl In foster care throughout her life and difficulties In rclationships \\1th her Siblings. She describes an upringing which is positive for her observing parental abuse at the hands of her stepfather toward her mother and some Indications that she was abused physically by her stepfather Mr. Richardson descnhes that he parent's divorced rather early in hiS life, he is the third oldest of seven chtldren. He communicates that follOWing the divorce his parent's remarried, he descnbes his mother as being inconSistent, having significant problems of her own and one gets the sense, though he docs not quite say it, that hiS mother was less available to him than he would have liked. Each member of this couple descnbed themselves in an extremely positive light. They communicate good work histones, positive relationships with others and a sense of responsibility about their lives. Ilowever, there is evidence to the contrary, for instance, each of them dropped out of high school, that despite their telling me that their adolescence was a relatlvelv calm one. Again I am thwarted in mv evaluation of them by their portrayal of themselves as essentially being Without difficulties. I have little doubt that each member of thiS parental pair loves and IS concerned about their daughter However, there is also little dOL:bt that the daughter IS placed squarely in the middle of their contlict. Each of them accuse the other ofplac:r.g the daughter in situations that were phvslcallv dangerous and threatening to the daughter. Ms Dombrowski communicates that \l1r. Richardson once pOinted a shot gun at her and her daughter, Mr. Richardson accuses !vls. Dombrowski of being quite drunk and driving the car with the daughter in the car. Again It is impoSSible to sort out the truthfulness of either one of those accounts. Each member of this couple gives an accurate and complele de~cnptlon of their daughter. They dearlv arc involved and Inves1ed in her life. 80th ofthe:,1 have substantial goals for her In Ide Each of them wishes:o pro\lde her the most stahle environment posslhle. Mr Richardson IS proud of hiS helng an extremc!y 10\'31 and dC\'OICd person. He deSCribes hirnselfas ne\er gl\lng up <111 olhers Mr Richardson IS partlcularlv concerned that his daughter ,,'lOW up "'lth relallonshlps with her half siblings, hiS Ihrc~ children
from his first mamage. I Ie believes that familv ties arc e~traordinarily Imponant and he wishes that hIs daughter would have that e~penenee of family. lit: also communicates grave an~ieties about his daughter being exposed to Ms. Dombrowski's mother who he has considerable negative opinion of for what she has "done to Claudine." He beheves that he could provide a more stable consIstent :lnJ loving home environment than could Ms. Dombrowski. On the other side Ms. Dombrowski deSCribes herselfas being quite devoted to her daughter. She savs that she wishes for her daughter to ha\.e in hfe advantages that she didn't have. She panicularly notes that her growing up years were substantially disrupted by her various placements in foster care and she cenainly wants to avoid any such disruptions for her child. She communicates that prOViding for her daughter is her number one goal In life She says that she is currently doing a good Job at that and believes that she should continue with that I observed each member of this couple independently Interacting with their daughter. The initial hour of interaction was \\lth Ms DombrowskI. She brought the daughter to the appointment. The daughter was alen. though obviously tired from the long car trip. Mother and daughter Interacted in a positive and comfonable manner. The mother brought age appropriate toys for the daughter to play wllh and Involved the daughter in multiple and appropriate activities throughout the hour. There was a hint of anxiety In the Interaction, though that well could be accounted for by the fact that she was being observed and the fact that she knew that Mr. Richardson would be coming for the second hour. I saw nothing in their Interactions that raised concerns in my mind about her ability to be intune with her daughter. Their level of interaction suggests the positive bond and obvious ongoing concern on Ms. Dombrowski's pan When Mr. Richardson came lar his appointment the daughter had a period of significant separation ditlieulty from her mother. She was tearful through the first fifteen or so minutes of the session. Eventually she fell asleep on Mr. Richardson's shoulder. During that period of initial tearfulness and separation difficulties Mr. Richardson al1empted to distract her, altempted to reassure her and calmly held her. My impression is that he is a loving and concerned father who is cenamly capable of :,.'Teattenderness with his daughter. Again [ saw nOlhlll!! in hIS interaction with his daughter that concerned me about his abilities "llh her. As she napped during most of the hour I did not observe their play. though it is clear that he IS a loving and In\olved parent It is difficult to know the parental abtlltles of each member of thIS couple over time My concern about each of them is that they are inconsistent in their psychologIcal stabtlity and their relationships. How that inconslstencv mav inlluence theIr daughter over lime is uncenain. Mv observation of them over one hour of Interaction was positive. though that cenainly does nOI address the prohlem of their ongoing consIstency The major prohlem In regard to making a po,t divorce co-parenting reiatton,hip \\ork In tillS situation IS the extraordlnarv anlmosltV. k:lr and potential for vIOlence m tillS couple. In addition therc IS the \cn S1gntlic:lnt possibtlil\ l,r conscious m:ll1lpubtlon ~lnd distonlon on the pan of cach mcmhcr of the couple Thus rar thc\' have hc~n comple!cly
from his first marria!.!e I k bdieves that familv. ties an: extraordinarily important and he \~;shes that his daughter would have that experience of famIly. He also communicates grave anxieties about his daughter beIng e~posed to Ms. DombrowskI's mother who he has considerabk negative opinIon offor what she has "done to Claudine." He believes that he could provide a more stabk consistent and loving home environment than could Ms. Dombrowski. On the other SIde Ms. Dombrowski descnbes herself as beIng quite devoted to her daughter. She says that she WIshes for her daughter to ha\e in life advantages that she didn't have. She pal1lcuJarly notes that her growing up years were substantially disrupted by her various placements in foster care and she certainly wants to avoid any such disruptions for her child. She communicates that providing for her daughter IS her number one goal in life. She says that she is currently doing a good Job at that and believes that sht: should continue with that. [ observed each member of this couple independently InteractIng with their daughter. The initial hour of interaction was with Ms. DombrowskI. She brought the daughter to the appointment. The daughter was alert, though obviously tired from the long car trip. Mother and daughter Interacted In a posItive and comfortable manner. The mother brought age appropriate toys for the daughter to play WIth and involved the daughter in multIple and appropTlate aCtiVitieS throughout the hour. There was a hint of anxIety In the interaction, though that well could be accounted for by the fact that she was being observed and the fact that she knew that Mr. Richardson would be coming for the second hour. I saw nothing in their interactions that raised concerns in my mind about her ability to be intune with her daughter. Their level of interaction suggests the positive bond and obvious ongoing concern on Ms. Dombrowski's part. When Mr. Richardson came for his appointment the daughter had a period of significant separation dit1iculty from her mother. She was tearful through the first fifteen or so minutes of the session. Eventual". she fell asleep on Mr. Richardson's shoulder. During that period of inittaltearfulness and separation difficulties Mr. Richardson attempted to distract her, attempted to reassure her and calmly hdd her. My impression is that he is a loving and concerned falher "ho is certainly capable of great tenderness "ith hIS daughter. Again I saw nothing In hiS interact JOn with his daughter that concerned me about hiS abilitIes \\llh her. As she nappcd during most ofth.: hour I did not obs.:rvc their play, though it IS ckar that he IS a loving Jnd In\Olved parent. IllS difficult to know the parental abilities of each member of this couple over tIme. My concern about each of them is that thev are InconSIStent in their psycllOlogtcal stability and their rd<1tlOnshlps. How that Inconslstencv mav intluence their daughter over time is uncertain. Mv observation of them o\er one hour of interaction \Vas [1ositl\e. though that eertainlv does not address the problem of their ongoing eonsistenc\ The major prohlem In regard to makIng a P()~t dl\orce (o-pJrenting n:!Jlion,hlp "ork In this sttualion IS the e~traordInarv anlmOSIlV, ti:ar and potentIal for vloknce In thiS couple. In addition theft: IS the \eJ"\ slgnl!icant posslbJiJl\. l,f conscIOus manl[1ulatlOI1 and distortion on Ihe [1art of'::lch member of the coupk Thus IJr thcv ha\e be~n cOl1lple~elv
unable to arrange for even the ~haring of mmlmal mfornlatlon hetween them about the needs and development of their daughter Bemg completely unable to put aSide their personal feelings for one another for the benefit of their daughter is clearlv problemalle in the long term future of IhlS youngster Funher. neither one of them can suppon the daughter's relationship with the other parent. Their level of distrust and animosity simply eliminates that potential. At this point I do not believe that either one of them are amenable to couple's therapv and I have serious reservations that such treatment would provide any benefit as I doubt that either one of them could be fonhnght enough with a therapist to address the significant issues in Iheir relationship I believe this youngster's relatIOnship wllh each of her parent's is Imponant and wonhy of maintenance. It IS unfortunate that Ihere is substantial distance between the residence of the mother and father The clllid IS reqUired to travel many hours by car to have visits \\1th her father. Though the travel might not be terribly burdensome to a youngster her age such travel as she h'TOWS and develops will become more burdensome and disruptive of her usual life activities. Were it pOSSible to establish residences less distant physically that might be In this youngster's best Interest. I have spoken wllh the day care provider and with Ms. Dombrow~kl's counselor. Both of them descnbe Ms. Dombrowski as a lOVing and concerned parent. The counselor tells me that parenting issues arc the malO focus of their work together The counselor IS clearly aware of Ms. DombrowskI'S difTicult upringing and the difficulties that upringing may foreshadoW In regard to future parenting abJiities. I was impressed by that counselor, her knowledge of the Situation and her assessment that she has a positive relationship with Ms. Dombrowski. I also spoke with the day care proVIder. She tells me that the child initially had significant separation anXieties when being dropped offat the day care. She tells me that those anxieties have diminished substantially in the time that she has known her She descnbes Ms. Dombrowski as a concerned and reliable parent who brings her daughter at the appointed time and picks her up at an appropriate time. She tells me that ~ls. DombrowskI calls several times each dav to check on the comfon of her daughter She deSCrIbes haVing no concerns about Ms. Dombrowski's abJiity as a parent, nor docs the counselor who Ms Dombrowski has consulted with Recommendations I) I believe thiS youngster's best Interest would be served by ongoing lD\ohemenl with both of her parent's. As already noted each of them IS IO\lDg and concerned. she IS attached to each or them and maintammg that attachment wllltid be imponant for her future development. Each parent has a mi"ture of assets and liabilities whIch are perhaps somewhat modified bv the presence of the other parent. I believe that the child should have pTlmarv resldenllal custod\ Wllh the mother belle\e that the mother's mvohement In cnumeiJng IS a crUCial benefit and should not be underestllnated In regard 10 h<:lplng her I(l pro\lde the kind (If ~ll\lrOnment
le Dombrowski concerns about Ms. Dombrowski should she be awarded custody. court to court order Ms. Dombrowski Ms. Barger at a frequency and for a
that this youngster will need. I have some limiting or dropping out of the counseling Therefore Iwould stron~ly encourage the continue her counseling relationship With duration at 'v1s. Barger's sole discretion
Given the lengthy travel to transport this child between parental homes Ibelieve that it would be in her best interest to have lengthy. but less frequent, visitation with her father Iknow that It is generally bener for younger children to have frequent and less lengthy Visitation, however, the physical distance, Ibelieve. out weighs the benefits from more frequent visitation. Iwould suggest therefore, that visitation with the fathcr occur on an every otkr week basis with a thrce day weekend begmmng Fndav afternoon and ending either Sunday evening or Monday mom mg. As these parent's arc completely unable to communicate J am not optimistic about the stability of any custody and visitation schedule. However, Ido not believe that they are currently in a position to engage 10 any Joint counseling or other form of Jomt communication. Perhaps mstituting some wrinen communication that could be monitored through Court Services would be of some help in beginning communications about the daughter. Given would public or the the potential for VIOlence and the fear of violence and "manipulation" I strongly encourage the Co un to order that exchanges of the child occur in a place such as was arranged through the social worker at the Salina hospital police depanment 10 Salina
Isuggest that are-evaluatIOn of the cncumstances occur in six to nine months to see if the couple has been able to make any headway on then putting aside their mutual ammosity and distrust further. an assessment of their ability to begin appropriate communications about their daughter at that point could be made. Perhaps post-divorce parent counseling could be undenaken at that time.
Richard B. ;V1a~lield_ PhD Date signed
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