October 15, 2021 | SPF team reporting
NEW DETAILS IN CONNECTICUT FRAUD AND MALPRACTICE CASE
What started as a local Connecticut divorce case has mushroomed into a legal battle that is getting attention from coast to coast.
The Connecticut case is a fraud and malpractice claim brought by Karen Riorden against Dr. Beverly Caverly, a psychologist based in New Milford, Connecticut.
Dr. Caverly is the Director of Forensic Services at Western Connecticut Behavior health. She is one of the psychologists who testified in the Connecticut divorce and custody case of Karen Riorden, the mother of three children, and her former husband, Christopher Ambrose (right), a film writer and producer.
Dr. Caverly, according to her website, describes her expertise this way: “Dr. Biren Caverly has been sworn in as an expert witness on a number of occasions. Her specialties have included being an expert in Clinical Psychological, Parenting Evaluations, Sibling Bonding Evaluations, Psychological Assessment, and Child Development.”
Dr. Caverly was sued by Riorden in May, 2021 after Connecticut Judge Jane K. Grossman (at left) stripped Riorden of custody of her three children. Judge Grossman chose to give custody to the children’s father, Mr. Christopher Ambrose
The core of Riorden’s fraud complaint is that it was Dr. Caverly’s testimony which caused the judge to give custody to Mr. Ambrose. In short, the suit says that Caverly’s psychological report to the court was bogus and that Riorden was the victim of Dr. Caverly’s professional malpractice and fraud.
What started as a local divorce case is now attracting media attention from coast to coast.
Like the conservatorship of Brittany Spears, the legal tenacles of Riorden’s suit reach into an array of issues including civil and constitutional rights, finance, law, accounting and now fraud and medical malpractice.
JUDGE GROSSMAN’S CUSTODY OUTLIER
The U.S. Census Bureau says that about 2.5 million people get divorced each year. Numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics show that in nearly three out of four divorces involving children, primary custody is awarded to the mother.
Only one in ten judges rule that the father should be the primary caregiver. When Grossman ruled to award primary custody to Mr. Ambrose, the case immediately became a statistical outlier.
The media spotlight has found the case because of Riorden’s refusal to surrender the care of her children without a fight.
Another reason that court watchers have focused on the case is that Riorden chose to fight the fraud and malpractice case in the Connecticut courts. The same court system that ruled that she should lose custody of her children.
The decision by Riorden to file a lawsuit is unique and an important distinction.
When people choose to file official complaints with the state about a professional’s conduct (contractors, brokers, accountants, attorneys, etcetera) those complaints are handled by a state’s “professional oversight” or “compliance” boards.
In most states these oversight groups provide no disclosure or transparency about the complaint process. Typically, the review of a complaint hides the names of the professionals against whom the complaints have been lodged, as well as the substance of the complaints. In addition, most states will also conceal how the complaint was investigated by the bureaucracy: The names of the investigators, their notes and their findings are kept secret.
As an example, people who complain to “judicial conduct boards” about conflicted or compromised judges, find that their complaints are often dismissed as being the “sour grapes” of disgruntled litigants. After dismissal, the complaint—including the name of the judge, the details of the complaint and the nature of the investigation—are concealed from the public.
Riorden’s decision to file a civil suit in the court of law is a unique tactic because a suit in the court of law puts all the elements of the case on public display. Unlike bureaucratic “investigations” that are kept secret, court filings are open for all to see, rooted in the idea that the law must be public and knowable. That way people can live by the law—or not—as they choose.
Riorden’s decision to file her complaint with the court means that the complaint—and Dr. Caverly’s responses—are in the public domain for all to see.
No more secrets.
Legal-dictionary.com defines malpractice as “the breach by a member of a profession of either a standard of care or a standard of conduct. Malpractice refers to negligence or misconduct by a professional person, such as a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist, or an accountant.”
Malpractice claims focus on the details of how a doctor, lawyer, agent or broker failed to follow their industry’s standards.
Examples of a professionals’ break of “standard of conduct” would be a psychiatrist showing up late to sessions, showing up drunk, breaking confidentiality or being romantically involved with a patient. These are not the claims made by Riorden’s lawsuit.
Riorden’s malpractice claims against Dr. Caverly are rooted in the diagnostic standards of psychology, and in how Dr. Caverly deviated from those standards.
The industry standards in psychology are found in the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. In the United States, the DSM-5 serves as the principal authority for psychiatric diagnoses.
Since Dr. Caverly is licensed and practices in Connecticut, her professional care and reporting are governed by the DSM-5 and the laws of the state.
THE HEART OF THE COMPLAINT
Riorden’s complaint states that she and her children “…were deprived of their fundamental and Constitutional rights to a parent-child relationship, when the Court (Grossman, J.) rendered a decision to strip Plaintiff Riordan of her rights of custody to the three minor children in April 2020.”
The suit says that Riorden lost custodial rights to her children despite the fact she’s never been accused—let alone convicted—of abuse, neglect, or being an “unfit mother” by any state agent.
Riorden’s suit starts with a broadside against Dr. Caverly’s premise of a forensic custody evaluation, saying: “The Defendant (Dr. Caverly) commits fraud and misrepresentation of the limits of the practice of psychology, as the profession lacks any scientific foundation, analytic tools, or even rigorous consensus to analyze and conclude on a matter of custody.”
In a nutshell, the suit claims that Dr. Caverly gave the court slick jargon and catchy phrases that sounded fancy, but were medically—and legally—bogus. “The Defendant’s misrepresentation of ‘forensics’ having to do with legal issues concerning custody of a child is negligent and deviates from any standard of care that can be applied to the licensed practice of psychology.”
One detail from the suit claims that Dr. Caverly essentially gave the court a fake prescription for an undefined problem. Specifically, that Caverly called for “‘reunification therapy’ for the Plaintiffs, absent a professional diagnosis of any recognized disorder which would require therapy. The Defendant fails to disclose that there is no DSM V recognized disorder which would require the undefined ‘reunification’ therapy.’”
A DARK TURN
Deeper into the complaint, the story takes a darker turn.
Sections 20-27 of Riorden’s complaint detail that Dr. Caverly’s expert advice was to isolate the children from the mother, based on “research that supports separation of the children from the mother as a form of therapy.”
According to the suit, Dr. Caverly told the court that “isolation” between the mother and her children was a professionally accepted form of therapy. It then details that Dr. Caverly suggested that the court enforce “…child isolation from the mother for three months, claiming a ‘cooling off period’” and that “the mother (Riorden) should ignore pleadings from the children during this time for her affection.”
COURT ENFORCED CHILD ABUSE
The suit calls Dr. Caverly’s ‘isolation therapy’ nothing less than “simple child abuse. Denying the children access to phones or computers to contact their mother is forced isolation, absent foundation in professional psychology. There is no accepted protocol which requires such draconian isolation.”
Instead of the court being used to protect Riorden and her children, it became a source of punishment and abuse: “The defendant (Dr. Caverly) did recommend this isolation to the court, absent reference or citing of treatment protocol, said isolation being a form of child abuse under federal definitions in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.”
Judge Jane Grossman accepted Dr. Caverly’s expert advice, and ordered the enforcement of the “isolation therapy” on both Riorden—and her children.
A final and critical detail emerges in the later part of Riorden’s complaint. In these sections it is relevant that not only is Riorden a plaintiff, but her three children are named as plaintiffs in the suit as well.
The suit says that Dr. Caverly’s report to the court resulted not only in her losing custody of her children, but that her “minor children were deprived of their fundamental right to a relationship with their mother,” as enshrined in the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
It is a reminder that the judge not only took children away from their mother, but that he mother was taken from the children.
The editors at SPF reached out to Dr. Caverly about the suit but no response was received. The editors also reached out to the APA (The American Psychiatric Association) who declined to comment on an open case.
A trial date has not been set.