Breaking News
More () »

Lawsuit alleges court-appointed parental evaluator ignores domestic violence evidence in custody cases

Dr. Mark Kilmer is named as the defendant. The six mothers filing the lawsuit are seeking a class action certification.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Six mothers have filed a lawsuit in Boulder County, alleging a court-appointed parental responsibility evaluator (PRE) and child family investigator (CFI) has been ignoring evidence of domestic abuse in child custody cases. 

The women suing said Dr. Mark Kilmer's reports to the court put their children in unsafe situations with accused abusers.

Kilmer is a psychologist with a practice in Boulder County

"My ex-husband actually broke my wrist at one point that required surgery to fix," said Rhonda Woodruff, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "He threw me across a room, pregnant with my first daughter... almost lost her after that."

Woodruff said Kilmer ignored claims of domestic violence and abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, while working on the custody case of her two daughters, ages 12 and 14. 

"In ignoring the claims, [he] sat in my kitchen and managed to tell me that, and this is his words, 'We now know 90% of the Me Too movement was made up,'" said Woodruff. "I said, 'Really?' and he said 'Yes, we now know that there were false and made-up claims.'"

She said Kilmer was dismissive when she told him about the abuse she endured with her ex-husband, the biological father of her children.

"He questioned me on them and said, 'Well this just doesn’t make sense. I've met him. How could someone who has a Ph.D. do something like this?'" said Woodruff. 

Woodruff said he disregarded evidence, including her kids' statements. 

"The children self-reported to him, Dr. Kilmer, that my ex-husband is extremely neglectful," said Woodruff. "They expressed to Kilmer, they're afraid that he [their father] would physically harm them if they didn't conform to what he wanted." 

Woodruff said Kilmer didn't report those concerns and accusations of abuse to the court. 

Henry Baskerville is the lead attorney in the lawsuit. 

"It's undisputed that he's had his own issues in the past," he said. "He's also said under oath on the witness stand that in his view, 90% of the time, a woman makes allegations of abuse, it's false and he ignores them 90% of the time."

Kilmer pleaded guilty to domestic violence-related charges in 2007. He was granted a deferred judgement and the case was dismissed in 2009 after he completed probation.

"These are situations where there was evidence of abuse, documented. Some of them [plaintiffs] had police reports and he just ignored those, didn’t put them into his report, seemed to side with the alleged abuser, maybe because he was trying to vindicate what he saw as a past wrong to him, maybe because he was lazy, we don’t know for sure," said Baskerville. "We’ve learned evidence that sometimes he would even threaten the women, tell them that if you dig into this further, if you come after me, I will edit my report to recommend that you lose custody of your child."

Since the lawsuit went public, Baskerville said more women have come forward. He said they hope to make the case a class action lawsuit soon.

"We believe that there are many others that had to give up partial custody, sometimes had to give up full custody of their children to the abuser because Mr. Kilmer didn’t do his job," said Baskerville. "I think it’s somewhere between $10,000-$30,000 per case that he’s paid and then some women had to spend drastically more to hire a different expert to rebut his conclusions."

Woodruff and Baskerville said the whole point of the system is to protect children, and in some cases, that isn't happening. 

"I don't know how the State Court Administrator's Office even allows an abuser to take these cases and deal with families that are domestic abuse victims," said Woodruff. "I was reprimanded as being interfering and committing alienation for not forcing, physically having to force my children to go see him, which I’ve had to do. They do not want to see him. They want the choice whether or not to see him and I have to make them go see him now."

Kilmer sent 9NEWS a statement that reads in part: 

"I care deeply for the families with whom I have worked over the years and have always done my best to provide courts with practical recommendations consistent with the best interests of children. The allegations against me are baseless and politically driven."

The Office of the State Court Administrator said Kilmer was suspended from the PRE and CFI rosters in October. When 9NEWS asked why he was suspended, the Office declined to comment. 

However, Woodruff said Kilmer worked on her case in court last month. 

"I do really think there needs to be significant oversight of anyone in the family court systems, from PREs to CFIs, and there need to be significant training and advocacy for these judges to understand the data and evidence that they’re hearing," she said. 

Woodruff said she testified before the state House Judiciary Committee last month, in support of new proposed legislation that would enhance court personnel's recognition of domestic violence, and child abuse. 

The Office of the State Court Administrator said it's up to the court to decide whether Kilmer keeps working on pending cases.

More reporting by Courtney Yuen:


Before You Leave, Check This Out