April 14, 1997 Honorable Jan W. Leuenberger Judge of ,the District Court Shawnee County Courthouse 200 S.E. 7th st. Topeka, Kansas 66603 Sheri Keller Court Services Officer Shawnee county Courthouse 200 S.E. 7th st. Topeka, Kansas 66603 Donald Hoffman 701 S.W. Jackson Suite 206 Topeka, Kansas 66603
John Ambrosio 1208 S.W. Tyler Topeka, Kansas 66612
Report of Guardian Ad Litem The undersigned was appointed by the District Court October 23, 1996, to conduct an independent investigation and report to the court concerning the best interest and needs of the parties minor /\ child, Rikki Dombrowski, in relation to contested custody and visitation proceedings. The court and the parties should bear in mind that this report is prepared without the benefit of participation in an evidentiary hearing, which could very well influence or modify my conclusions. As ~s the nature of investigations, I am influenced by the opinions of others familiar with the circumstances of the parties, investigations of others that were not duplicated by this writer, hearsay statements, and ~ other indirect information and inadmissable evidence. Despite my ~ best efforts to be child centered and neutral as to the parents \ ~conflicting position, conclusions are also influenced by my \) personal values. ~~ Initial investigation consisted of reviewing the court file and the confidential social file maintained by court services. ~, Court Services Officer Sheri Keller was interviewed at length. , , ere: Ms. Dombrowski's prior counsel Freu d Alan Alderson Gretchen Morganstern, who assisted visitation exc anges in Salina, Kansas; Dr. Richard Maxfield, who has submitted a custody evaluation to the court; Mr. Richardson's children from his first marriage, Tiffany (18), Lisa (16), and Hal III (15); and Bernie Nobo, MSW, who had previously counseled the parties. Mr. Richardson was also interviewed, but our discussion centered solely on possible solutions to the visitation exchange problems. Also reviewed were a telephone tape , recording provided to Sheri Keller by Mr. Richardson, 1 police (', ~rt from 1993 involving Ms. Dombrowski and Kermit Lindgren, 7
'-- " '.
__ Do~ra-8k1 Apr.1.~ ~4, ~gSJI7
It is apparent that under the primary care and circumstances indicate ~ away from Mr. Richardson. was in the care of Mr. wife.
since the birth of Rikki, ~e has been control of Ms. Dombrowski. ~owever, the Dombrowski has intentionally kept Rikki There have been short periods when Rikki ichardson or in the care of his former
Several sources of information expressed negative comments regarding Ms. Dombrowski's mother, with whom Ms. Dombrowski moved to Larned, Kansas, around May, 1996. As a child, Ms. Dombrowski was apparently a victim of rape, incest, and physical abuse while in the care of her mother. Ms. Dombrowski's childhood is described as bouncing back and forth from multiple foster care placements and her mother's horne. Ms. Dombrowski wants to protect her daughter and provide a positive upbringing. Mr. Richardson states he does. not get along with Ms. Dombrowski's mother, and has requested her contact with Rikki be supervised. Gretchen Morganstern of Salina, Kansas, also stated the maternal grandmother should be kept away from Rikki. Ms. Dombrowski indicates her mother has moved on to California and is no longer in the area. Mr. Richardson's children from his first marriage, Tiffany, Lisa, and Hall III, all speak fondly of Rikki. Lisa has a definite dislike of Ms. Dombrowski. Hall Richardson III has been interviewed by police regarding domestic disturbances between Mr. Richardson and Ms. Dombrowski, and related to me incidents he had observed. All three children are of sufficient age and maturity to assist in caretaking of Rikki, and are quite curious about how their half sister is doing. All three expressed concern about Rikki's welfare as she gets older should she remain in her mother's care, and fear they will never get to know Rikki or watch her grow up. Tiffany Richardson resides with her father, and visits regularly with her mother. Lisa and Hal III alternate residence between their mother and Mr. Richardson, spending approximately equal time in both homes. Ms. Dombrowski's therapist and Rikki's day care provider in Larned have been interviewed by Sheri Keller and Dr. Maxfield. All indications are that Rikki has adjusted well to her mother's new .home and day care, and that Ms. Dombrowski benefits from therapy. Ms. Dombrowski is an L.P.N., which I view as a mobile job skill. Ms. Dombrowski was previously employed at the Topeka State Hospital, and 'now works at Larned State Hospital. Mr. Richardson is a small business owner, operating Minuteman Solar Film and Topeka Vinyl. It appears Mr. Richardson is tied to the Topeka area by his business, the children of his first marriage, and extended family. Court documents indicate Ms. Dombrowski has extended family in the Great Bend area, but they are not identified. As previously stated, Ms. Dombrowski's mother with whom Ms. DombrowSki resided in either Great Bend or Larned, has apparently moved on to
-,,'~... ..-, .. .-; . ,,, ;.... :: ':"'~-'-":':":~."?:::'"'/"'! . •
V' _ DoZll.brOW'I!1IJc.1.
california. It is my opinion Ms. Dombrowski could utilize her job skills in any area she chooses to reside, but that Mr. Richardson's employment opportunities would be diminished outside the Topeka area. All sources of information indicate the parties are absolutely not able to deal with one another on any level, which will have consequences for Rikki. The communication between the parties is nonexistent. In his report Dr. Maxfield states it is abundantly clear that it is impossible for these parents to co-parent. There has been no improvement in this situation since the parties separated. There is a hi story of violence between the parties. Dr. Maxfield believes both parties suffer from significant psychiatric difficulties. For her part, Ms. Dombrowski presents a history of multiple abandonments by her mother, is a victim of abuse, has a pattern of unstable relationships, and has been in and out of therapy most of her life. Mr. Richardson admits to having trouble with the law in the past, is also a child of divorce, but appears more stable and consistent in that his first marriage lasted fourteen years, he successfully operates two small businesses, and the children of his first marriage appear well adjusted with positive aspirations for the future. There is no evidence of a viol.ent or abusive relationship between Mr. Richardson and his first wife. Ms. Dombrowski's. allegations of a violent and abusive propensity of Mr. Richardson are so far fetched I do not find them credible. If Mr. Richardson was as bad as Ms. Dombrowski states, his businesses and the children of his first marriage would not have turned out as well as they have. It is my opinion that Mr. Richardson is probably the more stable parent of the two and would probably do a better job of fostering a relationship with the mother. I disagree with Dr. Maxfield's conclusion that neither parent can support Rikki' s relationship with the other parent, but believe Dr. Maxfield is correct as it relates to Ms. Dombrowski. I share the concerns of Tiffany, Lisa, and Hal Richardson III that they will "not be able to watch Rikki grow up" or have a relationship with her should Ms. Dombrowski be the residential parent. I believe Rikki is entitled to a relationship with her half siblings, and view Mr. Richardson's other children as potentially positive influences on Rikki's life. It is my opinion Ms. Dombrowski should not have been permitted to move to Great Bend or Larned last May with residential custody unresolved. Bernie Nobo commented to me Ms. Dombrowski follows her own mother's pattern, in that Ms. Dombrowski "uses Hal for awhile then disappears." Uncertainty as to the final outcome of this custody determination has probably contributed to the enormous
V'_ DOza.b~CJc.1. Apr-.1.~ .24, .2g97
visitation difficulties. Both parties have been described as manipulative, and the long distance separation with Rikki in her mother's care has placed Ms. Dombrowski in virtual control of visitation. For this reason, I do not view any perceived lack of parental bonding between Mr. Richardson and Rikki a determining factor. Recommendations (1) It is my opinion the best interest of Rikki would be served by placing her care and custody with Mr. Richardson, and that he be awarded sole custody. The primary factors for this recommendation are the inability of the parents to cooperate or co-parent this child at this time, the opportunity for Rikki to grow up in closer proximity with her half-siblings, and a higher level of stability and continuity on Mr. Richardson's part. Should the court impose this recommendation, it will be devastating to Ms. Dombrowski. I have no doubts as to her love and devotion to Rikki. I view continued therapy with emphasis on anger control as essential for Ms. Dombrowski. (2) I suggest a rigid and detailed visitation schedule be imposed by the court, regardless of which parent is designated the residential custodian. The inability of the parents to compromise and manipulative behavior requires a very concrete schedule with terms clearly laid out in black and white. The court may wish to impose an inflexible schedule for only a year or two, in hopes the parties could cooperate in the future after a period of stability. The present posture of the parties is such that court involvement will probably be necessary when family reunions, funerals, weddings, and other important family events occur. Should the parents continue the present geographic distance between each other, travel time must be considered in setting the visitation schedule. Until Rikki attains school age, and if the parties schedule will accommodate, I suggest visitation with the non-residential parent be at least four days twice a month. Both parents should also have the opportunity for at least a two week vacation each year with Rikki. (3) I have no specific recommendation but only suggestions concerning visitation exchanges. It is my hope that once determination of custody and visitation occurs, animosity and strategic posturing will decline. It is my opinion Ms. Dombrowski should bear the greater burden of transporting the child for visitation since she is the parent who chose to depart from this area. I suggest the parties attempt
~S'97 pago 6
visitation exchanges in well populated public places. If exchanges occur at some geographic point between Topeka and Larned, I remind the parties that one or the other will often have some delay as it will be nearly impossible for both to arrive at precisely the same time. Ideally, exchanges would occur in a private home or child activity center where short term amusement is available while the child waits for pickup, such as the new service provided at the Kuehne Branch of the Topeka Y.M.C.A. (4) I make no recommendations at this time for joint therapy or counseling because I believe it would not be productive. However, mediation could be attempted addressing only the issues of visitation and exchanges of the child. Should the parties ever be in a posture to attempt co-parenting, appropriate therapy could get the process off to a positive start. I do not subscribe to the view that required counseling or therapy will cure what ails these parents. Finally, I suggest the court impress on the parties that they no longer control Rikki's custody and visitation, but the matter now rest in the hands of the court. Their opportunity to resolve between themselves issues concerning Rikki is no longer available. Continued game playing, dishonesty, manipulation, or violation of court orders should result in the offending party being dealt with very harshly by the court.
cott D. M~Zie GAL for Rikki Dombrowski