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Remembering Catherine Kassenoff and Persevering with the Combat for Truthful U.S. Baby Custody Outcomes


Why would a superb lawyer and mom of three take her personal life? As a result of the dysfunctional U.S. household courtroom system took her youngsters and drove her—like so many others—over the sting.

“It is a story that ends with my very own assisted loss of life in Switzerland. Its lead up has been revealed for years on Fb, in Ms. journal and in different media. The New York Court docket system is chargeable for this consequence and ought to be held accountable for ruining the lives of my kids, me, and so many different similarly-situated protecting dad and mom (largely moms) who’ve tried to face up towards abuse however had been labeled “liars”, “mentally in poor health” after which handled like criminals.”

—Catherine Kassenoff, Could 27, 2023

Catherine Kassenoff mentioned she selected assisted suicide in Switzerland somewhat than residing with the “insufferable ache” of being unable to see her kids throughout her divorce whereas terminally in poor health. (Courtesy of Catherine Kassenoff)

This was the message a Westchester County, N.Y., lady despatched on Memorial Day Weekend to those that knew concerning the epic struggle she was preventing—to get her three daughters again in a years-long custody dispute along with her husband. And, by means of the tears, most of us thought 4 issues: I’m devastated; sadly, I can perceive how she reached this heartbreaking determination; our household courtroom system did this; and we should battle for change earlier than we lose extra Catherines. 

Our courts repeatedly enable abusers to weaponize our authorized system towards ladies—making them the goal of a struggle that may price them, like Kassenoff, their well being, jobs, cash, properties, kids and peace. Nobody ought to dwell this manner in America—or wherever. It’s an underworld solely those that have been by means of household courtroom, or know somebody who has, can comprehend.

She wrote:

“I can’t survive this torment and the grief that comes from such a chronic separation from my kids. … This courtroom system did this to me, because it does to numerous different protecting moms (and fathers). Professor Joan Meier’s in depth analysis on this space confirms that is an epidemic. It’s a predatory system that features in darkness—by means of ‘gag’ orders just like the one in my case, by means of a publicly-inaccessible docket, by means of a closed courtroom and thru ex parte ‘momentary’ orders which might be in place for years. Cash is the aim, not serving to households get by means of traumatic divorces. It have to be investigated at giant by the FBI or one other federal legislation enforcement company or it’s going to proceed to devastate our households.”

I first interviewed Catherine Kassenoff in December of 2021 for the groundbreaking Ms. article “Empty House for the Holidays,” about how she and one other protecting mom, Cobie Jane, would spend the season with out their kids. Kassenoff was two and a half years into the battle along with her husband, a litigator himself with Greenberg Traurig (now on a go away of absence), who she mentioned took benefit of a dysfunctional judicial system after two of their daughters reported their father for bodily abuse of considered one of them. 

As Kassenoff wrote in her goodbye letter:

“As a result of the Courts of New York State are so invested in minimizing, suppressing and punishing legitimate claims of abuse, the Courts imposed ‘supervision’ on me for saying that the women had been telling the reality about their father’s abuse. This supervision, which got here at a price to me of $2500/week at its peak, was on the suggestion of a court-appointed forensic evaluator named Marc Abrams. Abrams was faraway from the Panel of Forensic Custody Evaluators on August 24, 2021.”

Kassenoff was removed from alone—and had the center to speak about it. After I first met this Dartmouth and NYU graduate, breast most cancers survivor, and former assistant U.S. lawyer, who was then-special counsel to New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D), it appeared that her bravery and brains would prevail.

“I do imagine the one manner out is to battle it,” she advised me.

But when a superwoman like Catherine Kassenoff—who had grit, plus coaching as an elite authorized thoughts—was defeated by our American household courtroom system, what does that say for the remainder of ladies terrorized and victimized?

George Washington College Regulation professor Joan Meier, who Kassenoff refers to in her remaining message, carried out an illuminating 2020 examine that proved when ladies report home or baby abuse the tables are sometimes turned on them they usually lose custody of their kids. It’s a no-win scenario.

In her “U.S. baby custody outcomes in instances involving parental alienation and abuse allegations: what do the information present?” examine, Meier discovered:

  • Lower than half (41 p.c) of ladies’s abuse claims are handled severely.
  • The probabilities that moms’ allegations of kid abuse might be believed are 2.23 occasions decrease than home abuse.
  • Baby sexual abuse isn’t accepted by the courts—at 15 p.c.
  • Moms reporting a father’s abuse (of varied varieties) misplaced custody in 26 p.c of instances.

So, who advantages from all of this? All of the courtroom appointed specialists, therapists, father or mother coordinators and generally judges. Take it from Kassenoff, who mentioned this after recounting how she was evicted from her dwelling, arrested and barred from having custody of her kids:

“Regardless of all of this, over these final 4+ years, I’ve saved going and preventing for my parental rights and to be a mom to my kids. There are over 3,000 courtroom filings in my case on NYSCEF [New York State Courts Electronic Filing], which I urge you to overview. There are near 80 motions. There at the moment are 3 Attorneys for the Kids and new therapists. The cash being made on the expense of my household is so abhorrent that there might be nothing left on the finish.  I’ve liquidated retirement and different financial savings … My kids have been recognized with varied critical psychological well being circumstances because of this trauma. They’ve been advised to hate me, to name me ‘Catherine’ as an alternative of ‘mother.’”

Kassenoff had some latest wins she shared on social media—going from extraordinarily restricted visits along with her daughters, to longer unsupervised ones. She was arrested in January 2022 for violating a protecting order and approaching their daughter by, in her phrases, “4 armed cops and pinned behind my automotive door. I used to be paraded in entrance of my daughter’s college in handcuffs, frisked, put in a cell and arraigned.” However all fees had been dismissed in March. Nevertheless, she was terminated from her job on the governor’s workplace after her arrest.

The subsequent blow was devastating: A brand new forensic evaluator rubber stamped disgraced Abrams’ outdated, misguided report stating Kassenoff was manipulating her daughters and a courtroom imposed what she characterised as a “draconian” ruling, suspending all of Kassenoff’s visitation in Could 2023. Who wouldn’t break?

“I can’t survive this torment and the grief that comes from such a chronic separation from my kids,” wrote Kassenoff. (Courtesy of Catherine Kassenoff)

This case follows numerous others throughout the nation that declare “parental alienation”—a pseudoscientific concept that has been broadly discredited, together with by the United Nations—however is commonly utilized by these accused of abuse. 

Kassenoff’s lawyer, Andrew J. Frisch, was unable to touch upon the case because the litigation is ongoing. Underneath New York State legislation, if a partner passes throughout a divorce, the case is “abated by loss of life” and a judgment can not be entered.

The executor of Kassenoff’s property, lawyer Wayne Baker of New Mexico, her long-standing buddy from their days clerking for judges, mentioned he was awaiting definitive affirmation of her loss of life (which may take 4 to 6 weeks)—although he strongly believes she “elected to finish her life, peacefully with dignity in Switzerland.”

Baker blasted the system which he mentioned prompted Catherine to make this determination—to maintain her kids from experiencing extra ache. “You don’t go from being a loving father or mother, to somebody who can’t be within the presence of your kids, based mostly on submitting for divorce. However that is the fraud the current system makes use of.”

“Why is it that Westchester County has so many dad and mom that should be supervised or are unworthy of being with their kids?” he continued. “It isn’t within the water; it’s based mostly on Westchester being one of many richest counties within the nation. The extra specialists, the more cash concerned. The more cash concerned, the better chance that the wealthier of the dad and mom will prevail. This business is symbiotic; really it’s a mutualism relationship—every of the above specialists work with the courtroom and counsel to the good thing about all. All that’s besides the events. And naturally, the best fraud is the ‘greatest curiosity of the youngsters commonplace,’ which makes use of the youngsters as pawns.”

I contacted Allan Kassenoff to request an interview however didn’t obtain a solution. Nevertheless, his employer Greenberg Traurig made this public assertion on June 2 after a number of movies of him went viral on social media:

“Allan Kassenoff has been concerned in a divorce and custody matter that has been happening for greater than 4 years. After prolonged trials and reviewing all of the information, together with some movies, not one of the 4 judges who presided over the trials or the two court-appointed impartial forensic evaluators discovered him to have dedicated wrongdoing or abuse as to his kids or the contended home violence, and as an alternative awarded him sole authorized and bodily custody of their three kids. Nonetheless, the agency might be conducting its personal investigation to find out his standing with the agency. Within the meantime, he takes a voluntary go away of absence to give attention to his household.”

Cobie Jane grew to become mates with Kassenoff after they realized they had been in the identical boat—preventing towards a Goliath.

“She is my hero. The one protecting father or mother to attain a win in household courtroom. The injustice brings anybody with a conscience to their knees,” Jane mentioned. “Could her kids develop up realizing how arduous she fought to guard them and will we battle even more durable in Catherine’s honor to make her unrealized dream a actuality.” 

“My coronary heart is damaged over this,” mentioned Tina Swithin of One Mother’s Battle, who has devoted her life to serving to protecting moms after her personal epic custody battle. Swithin has joined with different advocates to kind the Nationwide Protected Dad and mom Group which is lobbying for laws defending dad and mom that rejects “parental alienation” claims by abusers.

Sure, in her farewell letter Catherine Kassenoff referred to a “dire new analysis” which certainly factored on this two-time breast most cancers survivor’s determination—but it surely’s arduous to argue that the fixed trauma she was subjected to didn’t play a task in compromising her well being. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s seminal ebook The Physique Retains the Rating, which has been on the New York Instances Finest Vendor Record for years now, helps that. 

Kassenoff urged us to take up the struggle she by no means wished and was not in a position to wage: 

“Maybe if I had not been re-diagnosed with most cancers I may have lasted on this battle longer.  However I should not have the power to go ahead.  Extra importantly, I don’t wish to traumatize my kids any longer on this courtroom system…My kids and I, together with hundreds of different protecting dad and mom and their kids, deserved higher than this…If this might occur to me, it may well occur to any lady, Don’t let it.

Relaxation in energy, Catherine Kassenoff.

Up subsequent:

U.S. democracy is at a harmful inflection level—from the demise of abortion rights, to an absence of pay fairness and parental go away, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and assaults on trans well being. Left unchecked, these crises will result in wider gaps in political participation and illustration. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Modification, and centering the tales of these most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we’re redoubling our dedication for the following 50 years. In flip, we want your assist, Assist Ms. at the moment with a donation—any quantity that’s significant to you. For as little as $5 every month, you’ll obtain the print journal together with our e-newsletters, motion alerts, and invites to Ms. Studios occasions and podcasts. We’re grateful on your loyalty and ferocity.



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