10 tactics for child custody battles with sociopaths

Last week Dr. Liane Leedom wrote about the tragic case Dr. Amy Castillo, whose children were murdered by their psychopathic father after several judges issued rulings that failed to protect them. I hope this terrible and extreme case will be a wake-up call for family courts.

Lovefraud frequently receives e-mail from men and women involved in child custody disputes with sociopaths, who hopefully, are not murderers. Here is one of them:

I am involved in a custody case with a sociopath, however, my case is being fought in Europe where I recently relocated to (I am American, he is European). After being the sole caregiver of my children for five years, I had no choice but to leave them with their father and return to the States. When we separated he took their passports and left the country for a year. It was NOT possible to obtain new passports for children without BOTH parents’ signatures.

By the end of that year my financial situation was desperate and I had no choice. I came back to the States, got myself back on my feet and recently I started my own company as a Virtual Assistant, allowing me to work anywhere in the world. While in the States I came back to Europe every six to eight weeks to visit my children. Well one month ago, I relocated back to Europe to live and continue my fight for custody of my children.

The court case had already been ongoing since January and in typical sociopath style he has lied and forged documents. Even so, my ex was recently given sole custody (temporarily while custody is decided) and that I must pay him 900 euros (around $1,300 USD a month!). As if that could not be bad enough, he sends me on a regular basis (the most recent being today) faxes full of lies and accusations that he then turns around and uses as evidence in his court case!!! Furthermore, I do NOT have 900 euros a month to give him. I just relocated and started my own business and this is a real slap in the face with all of the financial damage he has done to me as well as my credit in the U.S.

I have fired my attorneys and hired the best Custody/Family attorney where I live. He has been in practice for 30 years and not lost a case! Also he is known to be a very strong and tough attorney. I wish I would have had him in the beginning. So with this I feel confidence.

The reason I am writing is because although I have a very positive outlook and feel that I am a strong person, as I know that most of you can agree, it is very difficult dealing with a sociopath. When I receive these horrible faxes my stomach just drops and it can make me feel very anxious for hours after. So now I have stopped reading them at all. I do not know what I am looking for by sending this email. I think I just need the support of knowing there are others out there going through the same things as me and that this is manageable and that I will make it through. I would greatly appreciate hearing what others have done in a situation like this. Thank you.

Like most parents fighting a custody battle with a sociopath, this woman faces a difficult times. Below are some general suggestions about child custody and sociopaths.

Get him or her to walk away

If your ex is a sociopath, at best, he or she will be a lousy parent. At worst, he or she will intentionally try to damage your children. Therefore, if at all possible, it may be best to cut the sociopath out of your children’s lives.

You may want to consider offering the sociopath an incentive to walk away. Tell the sociopath to give up parental rights, and he or she won’t have to pay any child support. You may feel that you need the child support payments, but chances are that you’ll never get the money, or it will always be a struggle to get it. The money isn’t worth having the predator in your family’s life. Figure out a way to support your children without it.

Sometimes this works—there are sociopaths who care more about money than kids. But many times it doesn’t, because the sociopath considers children to be possessions. Or, the sociopath just wants to win the battle with you, and destroy you in the process. In those cases, you’ll end up in court.

Tactics in custody battles

I am forever grateful that I never had children with my sociopathic ex-husband. I avoided the most tragic of circumstances involving these predators—a child custody battle. Therefore, the suggestions I make below come from my research and what Lovefraud readers have told me.

If you’re fighting a custody battle with a sociopath, here are some tactics to follow:

1. Document, document, document.
Keep a journal of everything that happens. Often, the craziness is so intense that you don’t want to remember what happens. Your journal will be important when you need to tell a cohesive story of what has been going on with the sociopath, especially if you need to tell it long after events have transpired. Save every scrap of paper, every e-mail, every fax, every receipt. Develop a way of organizing the information, whether chronological, or by topic. Keep copies in a safe place.

2. Have witnesses
It is best not to deal with the sociopath alone; every interaction then becomes he said/she said. Have a trusted friend or relative present during child exchanges or other interactions as much as you can. You may even want to consider tape recording and videotaping some of what goes on.

3. Get your own information
Do not allow the sociopathic parent to control information about your children. Make sure you get information directly from schools, doctors and others.

4. Hire an aggressive, competent attorney
Child custody cases with sociopaths are not normal cases. The sociopath will not play by the rules. Your attorney must understand this. The sociopath will lie in court, although his or her performance will appear heartfelt, like he or she is “just concerned with the welfare of the children.” The sociopath will make outrageous accusations. The sociopath is also likely to retain an attorney who is also sociopathic. Therefore, your attorney must be up for the challenge.

5. Do not allow lies to become part of the court record
Sociopaths lie. Sociopaths lie convincingly. You cannot allow unchallenged lies to become part of the court records. Once they are, they take on the aura of truth, and put you in a very bad position. Some lies, like accusations of child abuse, may haunt you forever.

6. Be cautious in stating that your ex is, in fact, a sociopath
Unfortunately, many judges really do not understand what this means to the welfare of a child. Like the general public, many judges equate “sociopath” with “serial killer,” and may consequently believe that you are overreacting. So it may not be in your best interest to prove that he or she is a sociopath. Focus on proving the behavior.

7. Stay calm in court
You must present a calm, professional image when you go to court, even as the sociopath lies. Do not allow the sociopath to make you emotional. The sociopath will accuse you of being unstable, and you will prove it by your behavior in court. Keep your emotions in check, at least in front of the judge.

8. Make sure court orders are explicit
Insist on detailed court orders. The order should not say, “parent has visitation every other weekend.” It should specify exactly which weekends, starting at what times, returning at what times, who is responsible for transporting children, who is responsible for bathing and feeding them—everything must be spelled out in detail. If there is any ambiguity, the sociopath will exploit it.

9. Make the sociopath abide by court orders
If the sociopath fails to honor the orders, do not cut him or her any slack. Record any violation. Call the police if necessary. Continue to document everything that happens, because you may need to go to court again. If you ever decide that you need to cut the sociopath out of the child’s life, you’ll need evidence to do it.

10. Take care of yourself
You will need all your resources to deal with the sociopath. Therefore, make healthy decisions in your own life. Eat right, avoid drugs and alcohol, get enough sleep, exercise and develop a support network. In order to care for your children, you must care for yourself.

Post your suggestions

I previously reviewed the book, Win Your Child Custody War, on the Lovefraud Blog. This book is full of information that may help you, from how to gather documentation to how to hire an attorney and private investigator.

If Lovefraud readers have any more suggestions that may be helpful to others involved in custody battles with sociopaths, please post it in comments below.

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869 Comments on "10 tactics for child custody battles with sociopaths"

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NoMoreWool says:

Sometimes the court is the only thing keeping the non-sociopathic parent and the children safe….

Precisely. A real sociopath is not going to mediate. They want what they want and can sometimes charm the pants off the mediator or judge to sway them to make unfair rulings based on deceptive manipulation.

A real sociopath is interested in gaining the upper hand and sometimes in hurting the other parent. They will do all they can to hurt the other parent, even if it means hurting the child.

A real sociopath cannot be bargained with, bribed, or made to see reason. They are out to get their way. They do not feel they are manipulative either as they truly believe they are better and they are right, regardless of facts.

The above comment is right. A real spath can NOT and will NEVER be made to see reason. It’s not exactly in their DNA. And nor will their mind ever be made to process such a thing.

A real spath does not care what anyone else wants. They will do anything to get their way. It does not matter who they hurt, how much they hurt others, or even (in extreme cases) physically harm others (or themselves) if the end result is something they are anticipating.

Some of the scariest ones are excellent manipulators. Smooth talkers. Able to make you or anyone believe anything. They can sell ice water in a snow storm.

>>>Some of the scariest ones are excellent manipulators. Smooth talkers. Able to make you or anyone believe anything.

This is why abused women take their abusers back and drop charges. There are some that simply know no other life and some who’d rather have even an abuser than be alone.

But those who actually press charges and later drop it often wanted to get away from the abuser, but all it takes is one conversation with them to fall back under their charms. They can even begin believing it was actually their fault and they deserved it. The charming and manipulative abuser can have them eating out of their hands within moments.

Hello my name is Nicole.
I am going to court to modify my 9 year old parenting plan. My sons biological father is a narcissist/ sociopath! 9 years ago he manipulated the casa (who was suppose to be in best interest of my child) he always made him sound so good in his reports! Luckily for me he went to prison for a DV charge against another woman right before our final court date.
Let me fast forward he never asked for visiting until my son was 6, my husband wanted to adopt my son so we needed him to sign the paper work. Well that opened a door I wish we never did! Supervised visitation started well now my son is 9, over the past few years I have dealt with Bio’s crazy antics even accusing my husband of physical abuse which never happened! Well I had enough of it and finally blew my lid! He cussed me out for the last time and I told him off and what I really thought about him! After that I decided to do a little digging and he is currently charged with dv4 on his 4 year old daughter (with the lady he almost killed when he went to prison) I was at a loss for words to be honest I cried, I just couldn’t understand why the mother would put her daughter in such a situation.
Well my question is I’m taking him back to court to suspend visitation due to the fact he is a serial dv abuser (against myself, other exs, his gf and there child together) I don’t know how I should respond to his lies in his responding statement? Should I take the high road and just let the judge catch him up? I just don’t want to seem childish because that’s what happened the first time. But also he is very manipulative so I’m scared he might sway the judge too! Ughhh I’m just so lost, I just want to protect my son and I feel so scared . 🙁 Sorry for ranting any advice I will appreciate since I can’t afford a lawyer. Thank you!

Hi Nicole,
You cannot let falsehoods stand. If you do it could be considered an admission on your part. Google the requirements in your state as to whether a general denial, i.e.: I deny all allegations, would suffice, or you must deny each specific allegation in each paragraph. If it were me to be safe I would deny each allegation in each paragraph. Correcting the record is never taking the low road. Also, google again, but you may be required to state the nature of your position in these forms (notice to him). Again, Google your states requirements. If I were you I would go down to your clerk’s office, when it’s not so busy, and ask the clerk if there is a lawyer they respect and if the clerk can give you copies of completed forms you will be needing. This will give you a template to go by.
Good luck.

Thank you. I feel like I live at the court house now since I’m doing this without an attorney (which I also did 9years ago but I was young and naive) I have been doing a lot of research. I did speak to 2 different attorneys in a free consult so I got a little help from them but obviously not all the help I needed . I guess I just didn’t want to seem like I was the one being childish because he responds with all lies! I have fb messages from 2012 as well as most texts from these past few years. Which for the most part show his crazy but also this last time I didn’t control my frustration via text so I’m sure he is going to use that against me.

I found it helpful in court to take the spath’s statements and answer them as he really meant them. “She doesn’t feed the kids.” Me: “That’s right. I don’t feed the kids. They are old enough to feed themselves.” “Are you calling your child a liar?” Me: “Yes.” “So if I asked [children] about [insert lie here] they wouldn’t say you did [insert outrageous behavior]?” Me: “They would probably say whatever you have told them to say.”

The net effect was to cause the judge to carefully consider the things the spath was saying, to recognize his word salad, and to see how the spath could make technically truthful statements that sounded like completely different things.

It also helped that I had an attorney who slowly came to understand what we were dealing with, thanks to a lot of education on my part. I made sure to explain to him the subtle things I did to provoke the spath’s irrational behavior so he could recognize the crazy when it showed up. I explained the underlying meanings in the various word salads and how the spath would spin things to make himself look good.

One thing that was helpful was the fact that I was able to hold a passive demeanor in court. I could only accomplish that by never looking at the spath unless I had to. I had to pull the same techniques on the spath’s attorneys, since they tried to physically intimidate me in court. As I foiled his attempts to trip me up he became agitated and was unable to hold in the crazy. This was over the course of several hearings.

When you go to court with a spath, you are going into battle. You need to prepare yourself for any kind of crazy making and practice being non-reactive to it. I was lucky in that I had already endured in-my-face, life-threatening crazy making for several months beforehand so a nice, safe courtroom was easy by comparison.

Best of luck to you Nicole.

Thank you. Yes he is very intimidating. I know it was 9years ago when I suffered domestic violence from him but the scars are still there and my anxiety of this whole thing is driving me nuts. He tries to spin things like he is a saint when even in the police report the investigator felt threatened by him as well he is a very dangerous person physically and mentally. I almost died at the hands of him more then once! I’m just happy I got out when I did when my son was only a couple months old. I just am so scared I won’t beable to protect my son it’s completely out of my control. 😢 I will use some tactics in court. I also will not be making eye contact at any point!!! My husband will be with me in the court room so I’m happy about that!

Since you are doing this without an attorney, it is essential that you take time to compose yourself. Don’t feel that you have to engage in rapid fire Q & A. That is prime territory for a spath to trip someone up and put them on the defensive. Write things down and refer to them as often as necessary. Keep bullet lists of your points and don’t let the spath take you down the garden path instead. Be willing to point out that he has not answered a question when it happens, and when you are the one giving answers, don’t elaborate when it isn’t necessary because it gives him more words to twist. That is one thing that drove my spath (and his attorneys when he had them) crazy in court – a simple unadorned “yes” or “no” when needed.

Best of luck to you – you have a hard battle ahead. If there is any way you can afford an attorney I would recommend it, but it is difficult to get an attorney that understands what a spath is.

NoMoreWool, Nicole, et al

I find your observations very helpful. I also find it helpful to know that others are on the emotional rollercoaster and learning how to manage that experience.

I would be interested to know f the various courts were ever able to see the truth and, if so, what was the mechanism that got the truth to the court.

For me it was the outright craziness. The spath had some other mental problems and wasn’t as high functioning as he once was. There was once completely nonsensical round-and-round that lasted a good ten minutes where he was making what appeared to be contradictory statements based on different interpretations of two synonymous words. That particular situation made clear that he was trying to get the kids so 1) he wouldn’t have to pay child support and 2) he expected me to fully support him and the kids so he could stay home doing whatever (watching porn, trolling the internet, etc).

If you have a high functioning spath the battle becomes much more difficult. The other techniques like interpreting the word salad for the court become much more important(if you are asking A then the answer is … but if you really mean B then the answer is… – or sometimes you just have to point out that the question is ambiguous and you cannot answer it until it is clarified).

Boy do I know first hand what you’re talking about. They con so many into being their best friend and can have everyone believing it you who are in the wrong and lying. They seem very intelligent and will even spend hours researching a subject just to show how intelligent they are. They can have people believing their story by using words against you and research to prove their points. They can even stalk and threaten you while appearing innocent to the court, making it seems as if you’re paranoid. They have everyone so blinded that even evidence showing you’re side of the matter can be dismissed because it can be considered anot action out of temporary anger that they didn’t really mean. They can blind even you’re own relatives against you. And the admiration of these people is so strong that it becomes very hard to break the hold they have on others.

It can be extremely difficult to prove their deceit even with the best legal minds behind you.

This oscar nominated show of manipulation that my ex-husband displayed won everyone over.

I ageee-even with a great attorney, the narcopath can convince anyone of everything.

So, how do I win? What exactly needs to be done to convince our judge that this man is not just a jerk, or a selfish guy, he’s a monster, he’s sadistic, sinister, unable to love anyone, and dangerous?

One of my most challenging battles is that he has manipulated my own sister to stand up with him and she did at the last hearing. So he has my SISTER believing I gave up on the marriage, and destroyed his life and my kids’ lives. She got reeled in. It’s sick as f***. She is even a guidance counselor at an elementary school and stood up for a man with 2 DUI’s, 2 DVO’s, drug charge, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct in the first degree…

I think she should be fired from her job because she is putting 4 kids with a sociopathic nightmare. He’s DANGEROUS. When I tell her these things, her only response is “you’re delusional!” WHAT THE-??
That makes me crazy cause she’s beyond delusional!! This man cut up 20 items of my clothing, he slammed me up against the car in front of 2 of our kids, threatened my life in front of my kids, ripped pictures off the wall in front of the kids yelling “who gives a shit about these pictures. You destroyed it all!!”
Unfortunately, this man also manipulated my oldest son into telling social services things. (To this day I do not know what. If I was guilty of something, I would know. I have no freaking clue.)
This has been going on for 5 years and our final trial is at the end of March. And I have looking for a job. I lost my sales manager job 6 months ago because the C-PTSD destroyed my brain to a vegetable.

I’m still fighting and I will not give up..unless my husband gets my kids, I have not one pinch of mental or physical strength to fight. It’s not that I don’t have the will. It will come from literally not being able to, no matter how dire it’s very scary to know what I will be like losing them forever because just losing them temporarily literally destroyed everything about me..

Hi Nichole,

Look at the site One moms battle and their Facebook page. This site was created by a mother who was also dealing with a narcissist ex and dealing with child custody issues.

Open a fake email account then a fake Facebook page so that you can chat freely on their Facebook page without your ex seeing. Post your statement that you made here on their site and you will get good feed back.

Tina Swiften (sp??) One moms battle site creator has also written several books with regards to her nightmare of trying to keep her children safe from her ex.

If you go up to the top of Lovefraud and do a search on One Moms battle you will find Donna’s post on their site as well.

Wishing you all the best!!

Take care,

Also on that site ask how you can get a court order mental evaluator on your ex especially with his history of DV. This will help you in court.

Thank you so much! I am creating a fb now. I think he really does need a mental evaluation, I have heard people like him can manipulate the evaluator? Is that possible?

Hi Nicoleemr, YES!! Sociopaths manipulate EVERYONE!!!

My ex h a sociopath literally manipulated everyone in divorce court. It was quite shocking seeing him in action with my eyes wide open. When I escaped I found a counselor who told me exactly who he was and then I educated myself so while in court I saw every manipulating he did and the people around had zero clue how they are being manipulate just like me during my marriage.

My ex and I [as well as the kids] had to have psych evals. His report came back inconclusive due to the fact that he tried to manipulate the tests, then faked a medical problem when he couldn’t keep track of his stories. His attorney tried to spin it as an incompetent psychologist, but the tests are well established with non-subjective grading rubrics. You will need tests done over multiple sessions on multiple days for the greatest credibility, and they are expensive. The ex tried to submit testing with favorable results that was done in a single day with no long-term face-to-face evaluation and the court rejected it.


Unfortunately, it is. Not every therapist is a good one.

I hate to add stress to your already stressful situation, and I know you mentioned you can’t afford an attorney, but truthfully, you can’t afford not to have one.

Have you tried Legal Aid?

It is certainly true. They can manipulate anyone who has never been exposed to an spath. If you can provide material on spath behavior to the evaluator before they are exposed to them, it will be much harder to sway the them.

Jan are we allowed to speak individually to each other and give out email addresses. I need to say something about the FB page and fake account idea that cannot be said here or there even with a fake account. I’d like to give a warning to people here but cannot say freely what I need to.


Emotional chemistry is very powerful. Mother Nature designed us with the neuropeptides and hormones that glue us to our romantic partner. It takes a significant blow over the head with an emotional two by four for some victims to come to grips with and remain in reality.

jm_short there are also cases where the victim truly wants to leave but are scared to for a variety of reasons. They may be afraid that their life would be in danger if they did. And often it’s that they cannot survive on their own if they take their child/children. They may have been manipulated into not having received an education or being employed. They trade the security of a home and food on the table and stay. It’s a very unfortunate situation and it’s even more difficult as much of the information and services designed to help seem to be closely held secrets. And Legal Aid is often the only option but it is also often very poor service. If the manipulator can hire a good attorney, pitted against the low-paid attorney often there to earn experience fresh out of law school, the victim will likely be fed to the sharks.

Hello everyone!! My original post was on June 30th, 2016. I won my parenting plan modification by default. The evidence I had probably was too overwhelming for him to continue to fight. He showed up to court but never actually went into the court room. I honestly think he was just trying to intimidate me. Once he saw I had my husband there for support he must have decided to just back away. He gets NO contact until he completes court certified DV treatment, mental evaluation, drug and alcohol treatment (with random ua’s).

But on a side note he has been posting crazy things in FB publicly. Things like “you can’t run from a bullet or a knife”. It’s getting to the point were my anxiety is at an all time high. 🙁 I have been in an address protection program for 9 years but he could have easy followed us home plenty of times from the supervised visits he had in the past.

I don’t know what to do. I own my home so it’s not like we can just up and leave. I do have a fire arm for protection but I’m scared to even leave our house.

Thank you for all your support and information!


Sunflower girl , thank you for observing. I’m happy everything is done with for now.

Congratulations on the no contact order. I wouldn’t expect him to follow through on the treatment requirements unless there was something for him to gain that would offset the cost and irritation of complying.

Are you printing out the FB threats? Keep copies with a trusted friend or family member. If you can prove a pattern of behavior then law enforcement might be able to help. You can request that officers drive by your house while on their regular patrol route, and depending on your local police, they might even be willing to accept a photo of him and/or his vehicle so they know what to watch out for. Make sure they have a copy of the new plan, and be sure to highlight the no contact part of it. That way if there is trouble and you have to call LE, they have a legal document to enforce if there is no existing restraining order.

Best of luck to you!

I forgot to mention to remove your personal FB information from the printouts in case he gets hold of them.

Yes. I have made multiple copies he knows where my parents live because supervised visits were held there sometimes. So we never go over to visit. 🙁 It’s really sad that we can’t live freely because we don’t know what he will do. I deleted my fb and created a new one with a nick name so he won’t beable to find me. But I still worry, I never post anything personal just because I want to be careful. Thank you for your tips I did not even think about giving the police department a copy!


With psychopaths Sandra Brown thinks there should be legal and judicial training so that courts cooperate with what is realistic behavior for psychopaths and actively protect his victims and children. This would be a big improvement in our court system.

The kicker is when you do everything listed above in an attempt to protect you and your child but the child is expressing sociopathic behaviours.

The kicker is when the sociopath takes you to court to ask a judge to erase their debt and cancel the support order all together….and show up to the court date by chance because a courtesy call was made after an hour of waiting.

Beware…By the time the child is 16, the child is playing their own manipulative game as a partner to the psychopathic parent. It never ends. If you suspect your child has Anto social personality and it’s clear that their other parent has it. Do not fight for custody. You will not be protecting the child, you will be bringing a predator into your home. Your best way to parent will be from a far distance if any. These people are wired differently and do not share values assumed in common society. Nature wins. Get away as passively as you can.

This whole article just described my ex to a tee. But i disagree with info doing all those things should be the right thing to do .. But they dont always succeed . in most cases they really dont do a damn thing. The courts dont always make the right decisions, thats why you need to guide them and use the law to your advantage. Be truthful .. But not trustful. Karma always makes her rounds but in the between time ur the one who chooses the path, being honest and doing the right thing doesnt always work out. It makes you vulnerable ! So stop being a pushover ! Read the law understand it and use it. You deserve those kids ypu make the right choices , you are good person and good things happen to good people! And those kids are depending on you , so make every move count . take all that narcissist bull shit that you went thru and fight fire with fire and come out on top but in the honest way. Just dont listen to other people be tough and go with your gut thats all im sayin

I am an attorney of 20 years and have done nothing wrong and am fighting a wicked sociopath. From my experience, if the person your fighting has figured out how to get the kids not to get in your vehicle when it’s your parenting time by having the kids tell you they don’t want to go, you’re in serious shit. And I mean serious to the point of losing your kids. I have not found an answer to that yet….

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