Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following advice from a reader.
By R. Brooks
If you are like myself and have dealt (or are dealing) with a sociopath in court, you are fully aware of how difficult and exhausting it can be. These dealings are increasingly horrible when you are dealing with said person in a child custody hearing. I am here to tell you ”¦ YOU CAN BEAT THEM.
However, to win takes commitment, consistency and most of all, patience. There is no such thing as instant gratification when you are dealing with this kind of individual, so if that is what you are expecting, it will never happen.
I like the old saying, “Give them enough rope and they will hang themselves.” With sociopaths, the rope is time, so patience is critical.
Also, I have read so many forums, comments, and blogs that tend to give the impression that to win, you must have a lot of money and a high powered (and expensive) attorney. This is also NOT TRUE. I am that person that spent 10s of thousands of dollars on private investigators but quickly learned that it was not very fruitful in court, so I found other ways to document my experiences.
This is my guide on how, little by little, I have beaten a sociopath in my child custody hearings.
Know your court orders
The first thing I want you to do, if you have already been to court and have either temporary or final orders, is STUDY THEM. Make yourself learn these orders front to back, side to side, up and down, forwards and backwards. I want you to be able to know the exact page something is on and recite it off the cuff. Trust me; this can be extremely helpful later on.
One thing a judge hates is violations of the orders, so it is equally as important for you to comply (as hard as it is to do at times). If you have not been to court yet, keep reading, but once you do have these papers, do the same thing.
Second, you need to ask yourself, “What makes a person a sociopath?” The one trait every sociopath has in common is the ability to tell a lie so effortlessly that (if you didn’t know better) it would leave you scratching your head thinking they have to be telling the truth, because no one can be THAT good of a liar. Remember they have been doing this for years and have perfected the art of telling a lie.
If you were raised like most of us, you were taught very early in life that it is always better to tell the truth. Please do not let a sociopath ruin your values (refer to 1 Corinthians 15:33) and that is still the case. Never try to beat a sociopath by becoming a liar yourself. I promise, it will come back to bite you and it is illegal when you are on a witness stand. No one person can keep track of the countless lies they have told. They will trip up ”¦ eventually!
You have heard family, friends and probably even an attorney tell you “documentation, documentation, documentation.” I admit, when I first heard that I thought to myself, “No one has time to do all that. I am a single mother and a business owner. I don’t have that kind of time.”
Documentation is a very crucial key to your case. I have found several things that have helped me in this and they are:
- A website called www.ourfamilywizard.com.
I love this website for several reasons but the best one is that EVERYTHING is time stamped and dated on both sides. I am sure there are other websites out there but I have not found them yet. If you send the co-parent a message about the child or children, it will time stamp the message to when they read it. It is important to note that this was the most expensive thing I did other than my attorney, and the fee is $99 per parent per year. They call and set up the co-parent’s account, which helps later on when they can no longer say, “Oh someone else was using my account,” or the sociopathic go-to for all confrontations the instant case of amnesia.
You have a very good calendar that allows you to put anything on it. It has a place to keep track of expenses (sports, dance, medical bills, etc.), a trade request option, and so much more. This website helped me a lot in court because my ex would say things like, “She never told me (the child) had a doctor’s appointment,” but I did tell him in a message and it was time stamped when he read it.
The other thing I like about this website is if your child is of age to have an email address, you can add them to the website to do all the same functions you can do. They also have an app for smart phones.
- Try to do all communicating through text or email.
I prefer using the above referenced website, but the sociopath refuses to use it most of the time. If you are asking why, it is because everything can be printed and taken to court as evidence with the time stamps.
I don’t necessarily suggest text unless you are screenshotting every message and they have the read receipt turned on. Also it can become very overwhelming very fast to put everything in order when preparing for court.
There are several websites that have software that will extract text messages from your phone where you have the ability to print them. Be careful in your search, though, and make sure you choose one that will also print the phone number of the co-parent.
This one I learned the hard way. My sociopath ex, changed the name tag for his father’s phone number to my name and sent himself a bunch of text messages where I was calling him names, threating, etc. and attempted to use them against me in court. Remember text within a conversation can be deleted on many smart phones (that’s what he said I did). If I had not had my own documentation (and my phone) this could have ended very badly for me.
- Time stamped photos.
If you have a smart phone, download a camera app that will time stamp and date pictures as well. Take pictures and lots of them. DO NOT ATTEMPT PHOTOSHOP! Do not try to edit the pictures at all, EVER. Please remember what I said earlier about maintaining your values.
If you are taking several pictures a minute or 2 apart and can show that, pictures work wonders. Videos are not good so try to avoid them unless you can get still images with the time and date. Make notes on the back of the pictures as to why you took them.
- Voice recorder.
If you are like so many of us that are forced to communicate verbally with our sociopathic ex during exchanges, record it. Put a voice recorder in your pocket or use your phone. I prefer to use my phone.
Remember that you are being recorded as well, so always be polite, remain calm and patient. A great strategy is using their words against them.
There is software you can find online that allows you to break down the entire length of the conversation into small pieces. A judge does not want to listen to your 22-minute conversation about what the kids had for lunch and sees it as you wasting the court’s time. You do not want to cut out yourself speaking either. Break up the recording and start with you asking them a question and stop it after their response.
For example, I asked my sociopathic ex if he was coming to my child’s birthday party, to which he responded, “I’ll have my daughter one way or another.” Or when I told him that his parents could come to my home to see my child, he responded with, “They aren’t going to do that because they hate you.”
Using their words against them in your court can be very effective, but you have to play devil’s advocate. What I mean by that is, we all know certain things that set them off, but if you get hateful in your question because you know their response will be just as hateful, they can turn it around on you, saying you intentionally did that while recording because you knew what kind of response you would get. It could make you look like you were trying to trap them and you know how good they are at using the victim card.
- Record calls.
Again, if you have a smart phone, download a call recording app. This is for the unexpected times they call. You do not want to ignore the call and immediately text them with, “I prefer to only communicate with you through text or email.” This could come back and make it appear as if you are unwilling to communicate with them.
There are several apps and most are free. Just pick one. Again you can use the same software to break down the conversation. Just remember, you are being recorded too, so the same rules apply.
- Three-ring binder
Next, I want you go to any store and buy a 3-ring binder and dividers. At the end of every month, print everything you have and notate the discrepancies or where your ex was in contempt or lied, and file it behind the appropriate month.
You need a good six months or more of this documented evidence before you attempt court again. You can add as much documentation in this binder as you would like.
Have a blank piece of paper that you use as a journal. Do not get off track in your journal. Going on a tirade of how horrible your ex is will only make things worse.
You do not want anything in that binder that you wouldn’t want a judge to see. Make sure everything has a date on it. I put my child support payment records (or lack thereof) in my binder. Leave it to only things that are facts and can be backed up on paper. Everything else is just hearsay and your personal opinion.
More documentation! If you know something for a fact, it can be documented but you cannot get your hands on the documents without it being illegal (don’t start digging in their garbage in the middle of the night), ask your attorney to do what is called a “discovery request.” This is a letter sent to their attorney that lists documents to be sent to your attorney.
For example, the sociopathic father of my child chooses not to work. But he uses work as an excuse to not exercise visitation, therefore it is important to my case to prove he is not working. So I had my attorney do this discovery requesting his W2s and tax returns for the years in question. They have 30 days to respond to the request in my state. Your attorney can give you copies for your binder.
- Keep your binder with you.
Never go anywhere without your binder! You never know when you will need it.
The ex-sociopath recently reported me to Child Protective Services. My binder was not far away when the police showed up at my door to do a child welfare check. Filing a false report is a crime, which is exactly how the police officer took it, after seeing my mountain of evidence.
Speaking in court
Now, you need to practice how you speak. Chances are you will have to testify in court. You need to practice your responses to prepared questions and practice how you are going to respond to being bullied by the opposing attorney.
How you represent yourself is extremely important! If you appear to be an emotional loose cannon on the stand, it will also appear that you are being spiteful and unwilling to compromise. You could have all the evidence in the world but completely ruin it by getting upset.
Have someone ask you a lot of questions really fast as well. Attorneys tend to do this to confuse and upset you. Use the “breath then answer” approach. Basically, let them finish talking before you answer.
Avoid answering questions like, “Do you hate them, do you hate their family, do you think the child/children will benefit in life by only having one parent.” Do not ever say things like, “He/She is a bad parent. They don’t have their life together. They don’t do what they are supposed to. They are an addict.”
And NEVER say, “He/she a sociopathic liar.”
If asked questions that do not have a fact-based answer, use “I feel” or “I believe” when you respond. So if you are asked “Are you trying to keep your child/children from their father/mother?” your response should be along the lines of, “I believe one unhealthy or unreliable relationship could be harmful to my child/children’s developmental growth.”
You might be asking why you should answer questions in this manner and the reason is, no one can argue with how you feel or what you believe, and you are not specifically saying the other parent is bad. Name calling and finger pointing is never a good idea in court, so try to stick with facts.
The only other thing I am going to tell you to do is avoid using family and friends as witnesses. If you use a witness in court, it should only be someone who is not going to be biased. If you use family and friends as witnesses, the judge and opposing attorney will see it as nothing more than they are taking your side because you are who they are close to.
So the same rules are going to apply to these people in your life. If they can back up what they are testifying to with documentation, that’s fine, but they have to leave personal opinions to themselves and avoid answering questions that ask them about personal opinions.
You become the enemy
Let’s face it; a sociopath is difficult to deal with. As soon as you file anything you will become the enemy, and at that point they will try every tactic in their arsenal to trip you up. He has gone from yelling, screaming and cussing at me to telling me that he is still in love with me. And never rule out harassment.
You are going to have to become a very good actor. They cannot know that what they are doing makes you upset or angry. Making you angry is their motivation because they see you as weak.
What works in your favor is that a sociopath is predictable. You can predict the things they are going to try and how they are going to react. Unfortunately, you have to play defense 90% of the time, so always be prepared.
Faith in God
The last thing I will tell you is keep your faith in God. I know that there are so many times that we lose faith because dealing with a sociopath makes us question ourselves and our values.
I recommend reading (and studying) Psalms 27 and 28. I have seen God working in my life in this situation. Every time I feel like I have been defeated by this person, I come back with even better results than I had hoped.
Now I am not a holy roller, bible thumping, southern Baptist, in that I feel like I should put in some work too and not leave it all to God. I feel like a relationship with God is a lot like taking an exam, you cannot walk in never having studied, and praying God will change all your answers so you pass.
The same goes for walking into court. If you put in the work and do the best you can, you will win a little victory every time. Eventually, you will have what you ultimately want.
One of my favorite sayings is, “We cannot have things on our watch because we are all on God’s time.”