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Richard B. Maxfield, Ph.D.
APR - 5 1997
LICENSED PSYCHOLOGIST
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EVALUATION
Name: Hal Richardson and
These parents were court ordered to involve themselves in a custody evaluation with me.
This evaluation concerns their eighteen month old daughter who currently resides \vith
the mother, \vith weekend visitation available to the father. rmet with Mr. Richardson
on June 19 and 26, July 18, and September 13 for individual hour long diagnostic
sessions. In addition I met with him for one hour with his daughter on October 4, 1996.
r met with Ms. Dombrowski for a two hour consultation session on July 10, 1996, a
second two hour consultation session on September 11, 1996 and a one hour consultation
with her daughter on October 4, ,1996. In addition I administered the MMPI-JI 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 in
this relationship and I have listened to and reviewed a taped telephone conversation
provided to me by Mr. Richardson. That conversation was one betvveen him and Ms.
Dombrowski. It is on the basis of the above contacts and infonnation that I come to my
findings and conclusions.
This was an extraordinarily difficult evaluation 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 primarily,
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 expected that any parent undergoing such an
evaluation will "put their best toot tOf\vard," my assessment of each member of this
couple is that they are prone to fabrication and to blaming the other for all, or nearly all,
of the problems in their relationship. On multiple occasions they provided infonnation
which was frankly and boldly contradictory to the intormation that the other had
provided. Sorting out where the truth lay in those situations was not possible.
Each member of this couple describes their relations hi p as beginning im pulsively. Each
of them describe it as "love at first sight," though they do not both use that verbalization.
At the time that they met Mr. Richardson was married to his first wife. Almost
immediately upon meeting Ms, Dombrowski he became intimately involved with her.
He very quickly, from his point of view, began to provide for her financially and
emotionally. She describes herself as being "struck offher feet" by his "chann."
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Hal Richardson & Clal".,;e Dombrowski

Richard B. Maxfield. Ph.D.
LICENSED PSYCHOLOGIST
As their relationship deepened there began a serious of violent interchanges. At least half
dozen of those interchanges came to the attention of the police and on at least one
occasion there \vere charges filed against both 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 tells me that he became violent in return as
a matter of self defense. Ms. DombrO\vski, 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 against 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 vV'hat order. Clearly, however, both members of the couple actively engaged in
violent behavior toward one another.
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Both members of this couple accuse the other of currently perpetuating the animosity
between them. Mr. Richardson, for his part, communicates that Ms. Dombrowski
frequently calls him. He says that she has called him at two and four in the morning and
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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 background. 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 1
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absolutely no contact with 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 that the exchanges of their 'baby need to
occur in the presence of a third party. When I initially began the evaluation those
exchanges were taking place in a hospital in Salina with a social worker participating.
Toward the end of the evaluation process the exchanges were transferred to the Salina
police department. Following one such interchange there was some sort of disturbance
between Mr. Richardson and Ms. Dombrowski. Ms. Dombrowski communicates that
Mr. Richardson follO\ved her around Salina, that she went back to the police station to
report him for harassing her and that the police "escorted him out of town. II Mr.
Richardson communicates that he was simply getting gas for his truck, that Ms.
Dombrowski drove by and that she madea false report to the police that he was harassing
her and he is deeply offended 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 abundantly clear is that it is impossible for these parents to co-parent. Neither of
them can say a civil word about the other. Each of them has extraordinary animosity
to\'-'ard the other. Ms. Dombrowski comm unicates that she is deeply fearful of Mr.
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Hal Richardson & CIa _ne Dombrowski
Richardson, noting, for instance, that two members of her Battered Women's Task Force
Group have been murdered by their ex-husband's or boytriend's. She says, convincingly,
that she is fearful for her life. How much that is conscious exaggeration is unknown to
me. Mr. Richardson communicates that Ms. Dombrowski, in his opinion, is
psychiatrically disturbed, unable to be trusted and extraordinarily manipulative. He
communicates that he cannot have a reasonable conversation with her as she is a "liar"
who will distort the truth to her own ends. Currently there is virtually no communication
between 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 anything approaching a civil discussion
about their daughter or her circumstance.
Each member of the couple accuses the other one 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
difficulty \ \ ~ t h the use of substances andlor 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 couple has significant difficulties with their
impulse controL Each of them involved themselves quite impulsively in this
relationship. Further, each of them admit to interactions \ \ ~ t h the other during this period
of separation when there are, so far as I know, mutual restraining orders. Each of them
speaks without thinking in their appointments with me. They provide information that is
contradictory to what the other one has said and what they have previously
communicated without 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 boyfriend. She has an explanation for that
which she provides me in the consultation which completely, in her mind, exonerates her
from responsibility. iv1r. Richardson, despite Ms. Dombrowski's accusations to the
contrary, communicates that 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 \\'asalways coming to
someone's defense who was unable to defend him or herself or that he was simply
attacked in an unprovoked way.
There is little doubt that both members of this couple suffer from a significant psychiatric
difficulties. It seems quite likely 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, sihlTJificant
impulsivity, affective instability \v1th clear proneness to depression on the one side and
irritability or anxiety on the other. She additionally has demonstrated intense and
inappropriate anger. She cleariy has engaged in etfoI1S to avoid real or imagined
abandonment in fact her brreatest tear in regard to this custody evaluation is the
Hal Richardson & CI: .'ine Dombrowski
complete loss of her daughter, perhaps, she says, from Mr. Richardson's kidnapping of
the daughter. For his part Mr. Richardson has demonstrated a pattern of intense and
unstable interpersonal relationships, impUlsiveness, affective instability with periods of
significant depression though he denies inappropriate and intense anger his behavior
suggests othenvise 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, ,vith the
presence of Borderline Personality Disorder.
Each member of this couple has a history of significant disruption in family relationships.
Ms. Dombrmvski's history is marked by multiple abandonments by her mother,
placement in foster care throughout her life and difficulties in relationships with her
siblings. She describes an upringing \vhich 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 describes that he parent's divorced rather early in his life, he is the third
oldest of seven children. He communicates that following the divorce his parent's
remarried, he describes his mother as being inconsistent, having significant problems of
her own and one gets the sense, though he does not quite say it, that his mother was less
available to him than he would have liked. .
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Each member of this couple described themselves in an eX1remely positive light. They
communicate good work hi.stories, positive relationships with others and a sense of
responsibility about their lives. However, 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 relatively calm one. Again I am thwarted in my 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 doubt that the daughter is placed squarely in
the middle of their conflict.' Each of them accuse the other of piacing the daughter in
situations that were physically dangerous and threatening to the daughter. Ms.
Dombrowski communicates that Mr. Richardson once pointed a shot gun at her and her
daughter, Mr. Richardson accuses Ms. 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 complete description of their daughter.
They clearly are involved and invested in her life. 80th ofthern have substantial goals
for her in life. Each of them wishes to provide her the most stable environment possible.
Mr. Richardson is proud of his being an <;!xtreme!y loyal and devoted person. He
describes himseif as never givmg up on others. Mr. Richardson is particubriy concerned
that his daughter oTfOW up with relationshIps with her half siblings. his three children
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Hal Richardson & C I ~ .he Dombrowski
from his first marriage. He believes that family ties are extraordinarily important and he
v,,;shes that his daughter would have that experience of family. He also communicates
grave anxieties about his daughter being exposed to Ms. Dombrowski's mother who he
has considerable negative opinion oftor what she has "done to Claudine." He bel ieves
that he could provide a more stable consistent and loving home environment than could
Ms. Dombrowski. On the other side Ms. Dombrowski describes herself as being quite
devoted to her daughter. She says that she wishes for her daughter to have in life
advantages that she didn't have. She particularly 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 she should continue with that.
I 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
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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 \vas 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.
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When Mr. Richardson came for his appointment the daughter had a period of significant I
separation difficulty 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 attempted to
distract her, attempted to reassure her and calmly held her. My impression is that he is a
loving and concerned father who is certainly capable of bTfeat tenderness with his
daughter. Again rsaw nothing in his interaction \vith his daughter that concerned me
about his abilities \Vith her. As she napped during most of the hour rdid not observe
their play, though it is clear that he is a Joving and involved parent.
rt is difficult to know the parental abilities of each member of this couple over time. My
concern about each of them is that they are inconsistent in their psychological stability
and their relationships. How that inconsistency may intluence their daughter over time is
uncertain. My observation of them over one hour of interaction was positive, though that
certainly does not address the problem of their ongoing consistency.
The major problem in regard to making a post divorce co-parenting relationship \vork in
this situation is the extraordinary animosity, fear and potential for violence in this couple.
In addition there is the very significant possibility of conscious manipulation and
. distonion on the part of each member of the couple. Thus far they have been completely
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unable to arrange for even the sharing of minimal information between them about the
needs and development of their daughter. Being completely unable to put aside their
personal feelings tor one another tor the benetit of their daughter is clearly problematic
in the long term future of this youngster. Further, neither one of them can support the
daughter's relationship \\rith 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 therapy and rhave serious reservations that such treatment \vould
provide any benefit as I doubt that either one of them could be forthright enough with a
therapist to address the significant issues in their relationship.
I believe this youngster's relationship with each of her parent's is important and worthy of
maintenance. It is unfortunate that there is substantia! distance between the residence of
the mother and father. The child is required to travel many hours by car to have visits
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with her father. Though the travel might not be terriblv burdensome to a voungster her
age such travel as she grows 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.
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I have spoken with the day care provider and with Ms. Dombrowski's counselor. Both of
them describe Ms. Dombrowski as a loving and concerned parent. The counselor tells
me that parenting issues are the main focus of their work together. The counselor is
clearly aware of Ms. Dombrowski's difficult upringing and the difficulties that upringing
may foreshadow in regard to future parenting abilities. I was impressed by that
counselor. her knowledge of the situation and her assessment that she has a positive
relationship ,:vith Ms. Dombrowski. I aJso spoke with the day care provider. She tells me
that the child initially had significant separation anxieties when being dropped off at the
day care. She tells me that those anxieties have diminished substantially in the time that
she has known her. She describes 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 Ms. Dombrov..·ski calls several times each day to check on the comfort
of her daughter. She describes having no concerns about Ms. Dombro\vski's ability as a
parent, nor does the counselor \vho Ms. Dombrowski has consulted with.
Recommendations
I) r believe this youngster's best interest would be served by ongoing involvement
with both of her parent's. As already noted each of them is loving and concerned,
she is attached to each of them and maintaining that attachment \vould be
important for her future development. Each parent has a mixture of assets and
liabilities which are perhaps somewhat modified by the presence of the other
parent.
2) r believe that the child should have primary residential custody with the mother.
believe that the mother's involvement in counseling is a crucial benefit and should
not be underestimated in regard to hdping her to provide the kind ot'environment
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