Throughout my marriage to the sociopath, James Montgomery, I was confused. He kept telling me that he loved me, but he went through all my money, put me in debt, and didn’t care that I was upset about it. What kind of marriage was that?
When I finally discovered that Montgomery was cheating on me, in fact, that he had a child with another woman during our marriage, my first reaction was relief. Now I could leave.
I wanted this man out of my life as soon as possible, which meant I needed a divorce. Here’s what I learned about divorcing a sociopath.
- When divorcing a sociopath, you need a good attorney
The first attorney I consulted, who was suggested by a friend, was awful. I told him about Montgomery taking all my money, showed him the photos I found of my husband with another woman’s child, and he pretty much didn’t care.
I then used connections to get a better referral and found a terrific lawyer. She was smart, diligent and willing to stand up for me. It made all the difference in the world.
- The sociopath will get his/her day in court
When I started the divorce process, I thought it was so obvious that my husband was a con artist who had intentionally stolen my money that the judge would see it right away, order him to pay me back and I would be made whole.
Nope. This is court, where judgment is rendered only after a formal process of reviewing the evidence. I suppose it’s a good thing — we all deserve a chance to make our cases. But still, it was a shock to my system, especially when my attorney and I had to practically do cartwheels to keep my husband informed about the process when he obviously couldn’t care less.
- Sociopaths lie — including on court documents
My complaint for divorce was a litany of Montgomery’s deceitful and exploitative behavior — and he denied all of it, except for the fact that he had fathered a child with another woman. He might have denied that too, except I had the birth certificate.
In his counter complaint, he accused me of abuse — including that I was violent towards him and I destroyed his property. I was shocked! I have never been violent towards anyone or anything. But sociopaths are pathological liars, even in court.
- Documentation when divorcing a sociopath is critical
Throughout my entire marriage, Montgomery promised me that he would repay me for all the money I spent trying to help him launch his businesses. So I tracked the expenses as we went along — I used Quicken for my business accounting, so it was easy.
On August 16, 1998, during our one of our frequent arguments about money, I accused him of taking everything I had, and he raged the he would pay me back. I demanded that he put his promise in writing. I was sitting at my desk, so I whipped out a sheet of letterhead, dated it and scrawled by hand:
James Montgomery agrees to repay Donna Andersen for all the expenses she has paid on his behalf and agrees that he is responsible for all credit card debt.
He signed it. And this document, written in anger and haste, was the critical proof that Montgomery had promised to pay me back.
If you have given your spouse money based on his or her promises to repay you, you must have this documented in writing. If you don’t, it will be very difficult to collect any money.
- Court orders mean nothing to a sociopath
My attorney followed the typical divorce process: Soon after my complaint for divorce was filed, we filed a motion for temporary support. I spent thousands of dollars on this motion, and the judge granted it.
Montgomery was ordered to pay me about $800 a month while the divorce was underway. He never paid a dime.
- Sociopaths feel no obligation to comply with court requirements
My husband was supposed to complete an official court form disclose his income and expenditures. When he turned the form in, everything was blank.
Finally, my husband fired his attorney, said he was representing himself, and never showed up for the trial.
- When divorcing a sociopath, it helps to prove a pattern of conduct
I wasn’t my husband’s only victim. After I left Montgomery, I started looking through his documents that he left in my home (I had previously avoided them, out of respect for his privacy). I discovered that, before and during our marriage, he’d been involved 20 or 30 other women. Many of them were asking for their money back.
Three of these women, plus the parents of his wife before me who died, testified at my divorce. The money Montgomery took from the five of us totaled more than $1 million.
The testimony of the other women convinced the judge that my marriage wasn’t just a relationship gone bad, but that Montgomery intentionally scammed me. In legal jargon, we proved a “pattern of conduct.” The judge awarded me all the money that Montgomery took from me — $227,000 — plus $1 million in punitive damages.
- The court doesn’t help you collect your money
The judge signed an order stating that Montgomery owed me more than $1.2 million and was responsible for all credit card debt. Once he signed the order, the judge was finished with the case.
The court had issued a judgment against Montgomery. He was ordered to pay me, but — surprise, surprise — he didn’t. Now what?
Well, I was a judgment creditor, and Montgomery was a judgment debtor. That meant that I had to follow all the regular laws about debt collection. In fact, to go after him, I’d need to hire a collections attorney.
Oh — and although the judge said Montgomery was responsible for my credit card debt, the credit card companies didn’t care. My name was on the card. They were not party to the divorce. I was supposed to pay up.
- Get everything you need during the discovery phase of divorcing a sociopath
I was convinced that Montgomery had hidden money somewhere. He’d swindled women out of more than $1 million over eight or nine years — I couldn’t imagine that it was all gone.
Looking over my divorce records, I discovered that we never received some of the bank records we’d subpoenaed — records that might show where his money was. I asked my lawyer to get the records. She wouldn’t.
The period of time between filing the complaint for divorce and the actual trial is called the discovery phase. During this period of time, information, such as bank statements, correspondence and other records, can be subpoenaed. But once discovery closes, you can no longer subpoena records.
Therefore, it is very important to get every document you may need during discovery, because after the trial it is too late.
- Judgment debtors can avoid payment by declaring bankruptcy
As I started searching for my money, I talked to a high-powered international collections attorney who gave me terrible news: All my ex-husband had to do to avoid paying me was to declare bankruptcy.
Court judgments can be discharged through bankruptcy — except in cases of fraud.
I had claimed in my divorce that my ex defrauded me. However, the divorce decree did not include a statement of fraud. Therefore, I had to go back into court to have my divorce decree modified to include the judge’s findings of fraud. Which cost me more money.
I conducted an international search for Montgomery’s money. But in the end, I found nothing. All I collected from him was $517. Still, because the court found him guilty of fraud, I am able to tell all of you exactly what happened.
By the way, after hearing the divorce horror stories of so many Lovefraud readers, I realize that my divorce was one of the easy ones. If you’re divorcing a sociopath, you really need to know what you’re up against. Lovefraud’s webinars can help you. I recommend that you check them out.