Women Say St. Louis County’s Family Courts Bring Financial And Emotional Stress
March 15, 2021
St. Louis County’s family courts can be an emotional place for custody disputes. Several women are making their cases public to shed light on a system they claim is all about money. Cortney Nolan said her controversial divorce cost more than “a million dollars”. Much of that money was spent on lawyers, but she also said she spent tens of thousands on fees she didn’t expect. Nolan claims she was directed to see Dr. Seeking James Reid for a mental assessment during their custody battle. Reid is a licensed psychologist in St. Louis County. She said she had no say on the matter and “that was a motion from the opposing council and they selected it.” During her reviews at Reid, Nolan claims she received written tests including one known as the MMPI, or Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. It is a psychological test that assesses personality traits and psychopathology. Nolan said one of them “probably had 500 questions”.
According to Dr. James Butcher, a retired psychology professor at the University of Minnesota, the MMPI test is an objective test. Butcher spent his career studying the MMPI test and said the results could “suggest a diagnosis” for various personality disorders.
Nolan said she felt her written tests revealed nothing out of the ordinary, but she was diagnosed with multiple disorders. She said she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, borderline disorder, and narcissistic disorder.
“It was purely subjective,” said Nolan. “It was given by Dr. Reid. He said there was no way these tests could have been correct and pointed out that I cheated the test.”
Evita Tolu says she could relate to Nolan’s situation and added, “I was completely naive.” Tolu saw Dr. Reid also during her custody battle. She said she had been referred to Reid by her ad litem guardian, Elaine Pudlowski. A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is hired by both parties in a custody battle to protect the best interests of the children.
Like Nolan, Tolu’s diagnosis surprised her. “I was diagnosed as a sociopath,” said Tolu. “I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.” Tolu said Dr. Reid did not explain how he came to the decision, but said: “We called him about a deposit. He could only tell us that this was his subjective opinion.”
When asked if Tolu has ever been diagnosed with personality disorder in the past, she said, “I’ve never heard of any.”
Both women say the court-ordered therapy was not only emotionally but also financially stressful. According to court records, Tolu and her ex were billed $ 30,000 by Reid, another $ 5,000 to drop him off, and nearly $ 3,000 so that Tolu could get a copy of their file.
Nolan claims she spent $ 35,000 on Reid, another $ 50,000 on hiring experts to challenge him, and then nearly $ 17,000 to put Reid off.
Tim Roldan is representing Tolu and has filed a lawsuit on her behalf against Elaine Pudlowski, Dr. James Reid and another therapist named Jennifer Van Luven submitted. According to Roldan, Van Luven was hired to work with Tolu’s children.
“We have generally alleged abuse as laypeople, each of them in different areas,” said Roldan.
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According to the lawsuit, Dr. Reid Tolu’s report to Pudlowski, and Pudlowski motioned to restrict publication of this report. Roldan accuses Pudlowski of sharing Tolu’s diagnosis with Van Luven, the therapist who sees Tolu’s children.
According to the lawsuit, Van Luven “discussed the custody case at length” and “shared adult information with both children” and discussed Reid’s diagnosis.
The lawsuit alleges that Tolu discussed the problem with Pudlowski. According to the lawsuit, Pudlowski stated that, according to Van Luven, the children discussed the contents of the Reid report. The lawsuit also states that Pudlowski did not “meaningfully” address Tolus’ concerns.
Tolu claims the effects were so damaging that she no longer has any relationship with her children.
The lawsuit has caught the attention of those working in the St. Louis County Family Court system. During a recent Zoom meeting, about three dozen Guardian Ad Litem (GALs) discussed the legal challenge Pudlowski faces. The Zoom call was recorded and posted anonymously to YouTube.
Sarah Pleban, who also works as GAL, stated during the meeting, “One of the things I know is that we all have each other’s backs.” Pudlowski spoke briefly about their legal challenge and said: “My request for dismissal essentially concerns judicial immunity, the quasi-judicial immunity.”
During the meeting, the various GALs offered Pudlowski financial support. It has also been shown that therapists like Dr. Finding Reid to rate people like Nolan and Tolu.
Pleban said, “We don’t have a lot of people doing custody checks. The pool is so deep so I’m sure everyone has some pros and cons with Jim Reid, but he’s one of the main ones. If he’s tapped, right? when says how Elaine and Jen get ready. I don’t want to do this anymore, it’s not worth it, where are we then? “
Pudlowski explained, “I already have tons of people who won’t call me back. I don’t take it personally, but when I call, ‘I have a case, are you interested?’ No, no, no, no. Nobody is going to do it if I mention the last few cases where I referred people they were sued against. That’s a problem. “
People like Nolan advises couples to find a consensual way to resolve their divorce outside the confines of the family court. She said the court-ordered therapy did nothing to her emotional or financial well-being.
“In the end we were both back together and said take them all out. That was a nightmare,” said Nolan. “Let’s get together for the kids. Let’s get on the same page, with a different way, with the same goals in mind, and we’ll have it settled.”
Pudlowski’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss Tolus’ lawsuit. The attorney added, “We seek to argue our motions. With respect to many of the specific allegations in the lawsuit or the questions raised in your email, it is my policy not to discuss such matters while a lawsuit is pending. “
Dr. Reid didn’t respond to News 4’s request for comment, nor did Jennifer Van Luven. Both parties have also moved to dismiss Tolu’s lawsuit. Sarah Pleban returned an initial call but not a follow-up call.
At this point, every judge in the 21st Judicial District has retired from the Tolus case. The case is now being referred to the Missouri Supreme Court for reassignment.
Tolu’s ex-husband reached out to News 4 before the story aired. He said he believed the thing about Dr. Reid’s money spent was well spent, representing only a small fraction of the total money spent during the custody battle. Tolu’s ex-husband said he believed Reid’s report ultimately protected him and the couple’s two children.