Saturday, January 31, 2015

Divorcing The Sociopath: 3 Tips

April 2014


This post was originally posted in 2014 but has been updated 

He wouldn't say who he was and what he needed…. I called through the door asking him. I was prepared to call the police and have him hauled off the property... his banging on the door had continued even after he rang the doorbell twice. Then it abruptly stopped. Curious, I peeked through the peephole, then window and watched as he angrily strode back to his vehicle parked on the street and got in.

Throwing on a faded baseball cap, sunglasses and grabbing my purse with lightning speed I left… backing the SUV out, down the driveway and onto the street and as I did I could hear him yelling after me, calling me by my name… now running after my vehicle waving papers in the wind… papers that unbeknownst to me at that time were for a modification. I studied him in my rear view mirror... I now knew exactly what he was.



When dealing with a sociopath it is quite the undertaking you have. It will be an uphill battle and some days you will surely feel as though the gains you made up that mountain were thwarted by him (or her) and now you may find yourself tumbling backwards to the very bottom. But don't fret… no need to wring your hands just yet and consider it a futile fight. This path will be battles lost… the focus is on the war… knowing when to act, when to stand still and when to just walk off.

You don't have to put on boxing gloves (tempting, I know). You do need to be smart. You are dealing with someone who is not what would be considered smart but cunning… there is a difference. He or she is capable of spinning, twisting and projecting. He (she) has a whole bag of dirty tricks in his or her repertoire and will not hesitate to use them. Yes, you may have days you feel as though you are living in a cable channel suspense movie. Don't allow yourself to be rash, do not let yourself do something in the heat of the moment, do not say or write anything in impulsive anger… I know this can be difficult; emotions are running high and the Narc/Sociopath likes to bait their targets but I share this because it will always, always bite you in the butt. Anything you say, write/email can be used against you in the courtroom. If you don't want your family or the judge seeing it I'd advise against doing it. 

There are vital things you need to know about how to go about divorcing a sociopath, dealing with child custody, retaining an attorney and going to court… here are some things to keep in mind.


1. Hiring An Attorney:

It is so imperative to consult with numerous attorneys. Initial consults (sometimes they are free) with several attorneys is so vital. There are questions you need to ask them. If you are the Petitioner (the one who files for divorce) you are already at a lesser advantage. The reason for that is because you don't know who your soon to be ex (who is the Respondent) will hire… and he will likely hire his attorney BASED on his case outcomes with YOUR attorney. The first thing he will ask is: "How do you typically fare with attorney so and so?"

Being the one to file… you're choosing first so it's imperative to choose an attorney wisely. Changing attorneys mid-case is sometimes done but it will be extremely expensive and will require catching your new attorney up on your case. When you hire an attorney you need to inform he or she that your soon to be ex is of a manipulative nature based on their actions. If you've "diagnosed" him or her yourself via internet research… an attorney or the court will consider it inadequate as you are not a professional. In court you could be painted as delusional... even a qualified therapist who believes your ex is a psycho and you're the better parent and should have more possession time with your children will be questioned by opposing counsel. 

Our children's therapist who was very experienced and had affirmed to the court I should have more time with the children versus my ex was put in the hot seat; opposing counsel actually had the audacity to minimize his credentials and experience by pointing out he'd never written a book. I was appalled and felt bad for him. 

The court looks at behavior, actions etc and even those must be extreme to take time away from a parent.

{The BEST scenario is if you can get your sociopathic spouse in couples counseling for awhile (BEFORE filing) with a seasoned therapist (20+ years experience) that will hopefully diagnose your spouse for what he or she is. After you've been in counseling for a few sessions you can always make an appointment for yourself to discuss their thoughts.} 

This next part is ESSENTIAL… if your attorney laughs at you that your soon to be ex is manipulative, if he or she just dismisses you and acts as though you're neurotic, exaggerating, etc… RUN. Do not hire them. Ask how they typically do working with most attorneys, with the judges, etc. Keep in mind they may merely tell you what you want to hear. No one ever tells you that much of how your divorce ends is contributed to the many personalities thrown in the mix. Whatever you do don't let opposing counsel make all the decisions; you don't want them choosing the mediator. If your soon to be ex is a sociopath… he or she WILL likely hire a sociopathic attorney. His attorney will play dirty, he will be a snake, a pit bull, what have you. You need an attorney who knows what your ex is capable of and believes you and can fight smart if needed. It is unbelievable how often in court your attorney will need to speak up on your behalf and won't because they don't know your case well enough. You may be standing there at the bench before the judge thinking: "Wait a minute… what about scenario such and such? How come my attorney is not bringing this up?" This is your time and your chance. You need to speak up and get your attorneys attention (via post it note, whatever) or ask to speak. Otherwise the judge will only hear what your attorney shares and that might be only half the picture. If you have an attorney who wants to avoid court and won't ever fight for you… who only wants you to bend and bend and acquiesce to your ex no matter what he or she does, who is very passive… ditch them, find a new one or represent yourself.

If you have a diagnosis (written) from a psychologist make a copy and present it to your attorney and court. You can request a psychological evaluation ordered from the court but realize that if your spouse does an evaluation more than likely you will have to as well. It's expensive. Sociopaths will lie in court (yet look genuinely nice, respectable and like a caring parent) and they may have the ability to pass testing trying to prove they are one. He will accuse you (and his attorney) of anything he can dream up… stuff that is just laughable to you and your family and friends who know you well. Keep your emotions in check in the courtroom especially… the judge doesn't know you and is trying to get a first impression. Keep calm, be respectful, stick to FACTS. Opposing counsel will try the tactic of attacking your character based on lies versus facts. Have all your documentation ready to hand to the judge.

2. Documentation & Witnesses:

Check if you can record phone calls (you may have something on your cell phone that will record phone calls, if not, there are apps for that…. (I use SuperNote) or you can buy an old fashioned hand held recorder and put the call on speaker phone. Recordings may or may not be legal; check your state/jurisdiction for whether you can record. Recordings may not be permissible in court but they come in really handy for taking notes on conversations for documentation. Whatever you choose it's important to record any calls if you must have them with a sociopath. Remember, no contact is always best. Second best (for co-parenting) is communication done only by OurFamilyWizard or TalkingParents (check online for these sites) Then document the incidents in some form, keeping it all organized… by date is always good or by type of incident.

If you have to meet the sociopath (child exchange) take someone with you… it's good to have a witness. (McDonalds or the police station in the case of abuse are good neutral locations to meet). Family is good but a friend is better… someone who has known you a long time and knows your character. 

From personal experience there will be people who seem to scatter and run like scared kittens during your divorce/child custody battle, suddenly forgetting your name and phone number. Often these people cry "I don't want to get involved!" the minute you begin asking them for information or help. These people… don't trust them further than you can throw them. They may be being paid off by the sociopath, (they may BE a sociopath, maybe they were promised something like a job or have even been intimate with your estranged spouse behind your back… you just never know… (either way, even if that's not the case, they aren't standing up to do the "right thing") Being married to a sociopath is bad enough but divorcing one is even more life altering… people will continue to amaze you and who you THOUGHT you knew you may realize you really didn't. People will be weeded out of your life as the process goes on. Be on guard and vigilant in who you trust. Weed out your Facebook. And remember, if needed you can have people subpoenaed for court if need be if it would help your case, just check with your attorney.

3. Tips Regarding Kids:

Last, but certainly not least… your kids. Be extremely careful of any phone or electronic device your children bring into your home when they are with you. It may have a listening device. I know some may think this thinking is reaching or even ridiculous. But having been married to someone who is very technology savvy and once hacked a well known phone and cable service providers website, we really can't put anything past them. Checking your children's dolls, bears, backpacks, etc will help you have peace of mind. The sociopath will do anything he can to know what steps you are taking and stay ahead of them. I wouldn't allow phones, an itouch, etc in your home... or if you must when they aren't in use stuff them in a blanket in a closet or in the garage. May sound extreme but a sociopath has 2 points of focus: Punish you and to win AT ALL COSTS. Keep this in mind.

We can remember to not ever tell our children on the phone while they are in the ex's care "Next week when I see you I'll take you to go see such and such movie" or "Would you like to go eat at your favorite restaurant next week?" A sociopath will overhear this (it's probably a recorded call on his end) and then immediately take them to go do exactly what you said you were going to do with them. Personal experience here. Don't ever share your plans. He or she WILL wreck them and it's on purpose.

Don't say anything about your soon to be ex around your children. If they say anything about him just listen and use the go-to reply of:  "I'm glad you can open up and tell me how you feel. I love you" and then change the subject following with a hug, etc. Document what was said if it was negative. Focusing on listening to your child, that they are communicating with you, giving them comfort, etc is what you can do to be supportive but leave the commentary and bad mouthing off limits. Remind them that their feelings are okay! It's perfectly normal for them to feel mad, sad or disappointed, etc. As adults we can tell our children: "You know sometimes I feel like x,y, z too!" Affirm to them that it's healthy to express their feelings and you will listen to them anytime. Remind them so often the divorce is not their fault.

It's important to find a middle ground when it comes to talking to your kids about their past week or weekend with their dad once they are back at your house. The first day or so can be a little awkward in the beginning of a divorce… after all, everyone, from attorneys to the court system is so "Don't say this! Don't say that!" And that can be intimidating, no doubt. I know during the first few weeks I was like: What are we supposed to talk about? It seemed everything was off limits. No, you can't bad mouth their dad, etc. I do understand many people are then scratching their head going "Ummmm…. okay… then just what CAN I ask? What can I talk about?" I know it can feel that way, especially at first as you begin to navigate this new world.

Here are some ideas… Don't interrogate your children. Asking them twenty questions will make you feel like a reporter and put them on the defensive. Yet saying nothing… asking them zero questions makes for an incredibly awkward situation as well… because then the kids are thinking… "Okay, mom  (or dad) isn't asking me anything. Can I NOT say anything? Do I have to keep everything separate???" No, they don't. And it's not healthy for them to think they have to. A good general rule of questions are... "So how was your week?", "Did you get to try any new places to eat this past week?", "Did you eat at your favorite pizza place last weekend?", "How was the movie Dad (or mom) took you to see? Tell me all about it!", "How was school? Did you ace your spelling test?" General questions like these put your child at ease... you're asking about their week and they will open up bit by bit... and if there is anything concerning that crops up about their other parent.... document, document, document. 

© ~ 2015

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Divorce/Child Custody Trial: Tips For Moms

Divorce/Child Custody Trial: Tips For Moms - Part 2

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