It’s Been a Year Since Catherine Kassenoff’s Assisted Suicide. Has Anything Changed in Family Court?

(Courtesy of Wayne Baker)

Three backpacks waited in a row with a “Love” sign on a bureau in Catherine Kassenoff’s new house—because she thought her three daughters would finally be coming home. 

That day never came. 

“I still feel immense sadness,” said Wayne Baker, the executor of Kassenoff’s estate who found her loving preparations for the girls’ arrival when he visited the three-bedroom home after the tragic news. “She was one of my dearest friends. I had immense respect and regard for her as a person, as an attorney—her mind, her sense of humor and her willingness to help people.”

Baker was the one who received Kassenoff’s ashes, after the Larchmont mother decided to end her life in a Swiss assisted suicide facility on May 27, 2023. Catherine Kassenoff had lost custody of her three daughters in a divorce proceeding that labeled her behavior “harmful” and unhinged. The accomplished attorney publicly railed against what she called corrupt New York family courts, accusing the system of allowing her lawyer husband Allan Kassenoff to take their children, evict her from their home and devastate her emotionally, physically and financially. 

“At the end she was relieved. … The pain was off her shoulders because she knew what she was doing,” said Baker, explaining that Catherine thought she was making the best decision to end the conflict for her children. “The bottom line was, she couldn’t live without her children and the court was saying she couldn’t live with her children … so where did that leave her?” 

Kassenoff’s estate is still being litigated and Baker said Allan has not facilitated visits between Catherine’s family and their girls.

The bottom line was she couldn’t live without her children and the court was saying she couldn’t live with her children … so where did that leave her?

Wayne Baker

The couple’s divorce started after one of their daughters reported to their school that Allan Kassenoff allegedly kicked her sister, and Catherine was told to file for an order of protection or she would lose her kids.

In response, Allan filed for divorce, filed an “ex parte” (emergency) motion for custody and got exclusive use of their home—alleging that his wife had manipulated their daughters. The investigating detective found the allegation of kicking credible, but according to Baker, Child Protective Services blamed Catherine in part for not protecting the children.

(Courtesy of Jessie Watford Photography)

After years of trying to combat her husband’s courtroom narrative that she was alienating the children from him, Catherine believed she would finally have unsupervised visits with her daughters. She purchased a new home in Westchester County, N.Y., in anticipation of this. But then, a new custody evaluation which, in Baker’s view, rubber-stamped an old biased report, reversed that—the final straw for Catherine. 

“She asked me to promise to tell the girls the truth. I had always known her as a loving mom,” said Katherine Klein, the Kassenoffs’ former nanny who was one of the last people to speak with Catherine in Switzerland. “She said she loved me. I was trying to convince her to stop the IV, but it had started already and she said, ‘I can’t stop it.’ I could hear the anguish in her voice. I think it just all got to her too much.” 

Catherine Kassenoff’s former nanny, Katherine Klein, took this photo of her during their last meeting on April 28, 2023. (Courtesy of Katherine Klein)

Klein met Kassenoff at a diner on April 28, 2023. She said Catherine looked “sickly” (which may have been partly due to a recurrence of cancer she revealed in her goodbye letter, in which she also blamed the court system for her demise). 

The story of Kassenoff’s assisted suicide on Memorial Day weekend last year spread like wildfire, including on social media. The wave of outrage spurred by news coverage and TikTok videos of Allan Kassenoff resulted in his resignation from the Greenberg Traurig law firm. He later sued a TikTok influencer for defamation in an ongoing suit. 

Ms. contacted Allan Kassenoff for this story. Kassenoff responded via email: “Attached is the Complaint I filed against Robert Harvey for defamation, among other things. Everything I wrote is true and verifiable.” You can read his full complaint here

Many in the family court reform movement thought the dramatic death of an astute legal mind like Catherine—who still couldn’t win in our backward system—would finally mark a watershed for reform, especially since, according to legal experts, her case highlighted a violation of women’s constitutional rights to be heard. Yet one year later, some are asking: What has changed?

“Nothing,” said Sarah, a protective mother who is afraid to use her real name. “Nothing has changed for a lot of us—I just lost custody of my kids because my husband was bent on revenge and our court system cheered him on. There are many more Catherines out here who are heartbroken, on the verge of giving up.”

But Danielle Pollack, policy manager at The National Family Violence Law Center at George Washington Law and a leading figure pushing for change, pointed to signs of hope. “It is encouraging to see our long-term strategic policy work coming to fruition as states move to adopt the child safety provisions of the federal Keeping Children Safe From Family Violence Act, also known as ‘Kayden’s Law’ which is named after a little girl in Pennsylvania preventably murdered by her abusive father after family court granted him unsupervised parenting time.”

There are many more Catherines out here who are heartbroken, on the verge of giving up.


Colorado was the first state to pass Kayden’s Law since federal enactment in 2022 and versions of the law have also passed in Utah, Tennessee, California, Maryland, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

A new grassroots movement called “The Children Are Coming” is brewing—a campaign spearheaded by teenagers and young adults who have been wronged by the family court system. Dune Mecartney is one of them. According to Mecartney, the attorney appointed to represent him during his parents’ divorce was negligent.

“The guardian ad litem was to represent the child’s best interest and she did exactly the opposite. She represented my abusive father’s best interest instead of mine … so she advocated for him,” the Wyoming teen said. 

Mecartney also criticized Dr. Arnold Shienvold, a forensic psychologist on the case, for not listening to the boy’s pleas not to be sent to controversial “reunification therapy” with his abuser.

Ms. contacted Shienvold for this story, but received no response.

I ask that you please keep telling my story so that the truth is known far and wide.

Catherine Kassenoff

As for Catherine’s dear friend Wayne Baker, he’s a practicing attorney in New Mexico—and said he’s “disgusted” by this broken legal system.

“Family court is the worst system in the world,” he said. “I have experience in the criminal justice system and it’s much fairer and you definitely get more rights than a parent has to their child. If there was ever a constitutional right to anything, it’s the right to have your children.”

That was precisely Catherine Kassenoff’s point. On this sad anniversary, we remember her “persistent” spirit and honor her last wish: “I ask that you please keep telling my story so that the truth is known far and wide.”

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Amy Polacko is a divorce coach and journalist who also runs a support group for single/divorced women. She worked on the Pulitzer Prize-winning team covering the TWA Flight 800 crash for Newsday. As a survivor of domestic abuse, she coaches women trying to escape and is writing a book on the family court underworld. Learn more about Polacko and her mission at