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I tried for years to protect our children from their father, and the legal system did little to help

Spath TalesEditor’s Note: Lovefraud received the following story from a reader whom we’ll call “Rhoda.”

My ex is an attorney and used his position to financially ruin me by targeting our children.

I spent over $250,000 on legal fees, while he was legally allowed to represent himself, and even question me on the witness stand as both my ex and his own attorney. The legal system allowed him to continue to drag me to court for 7 years.

I was awarded sole custody twice and he waited for the judge to retire, filed again, and this time was awarded joint custody and I had not done anything different or wrong.

Our children have suffered the most. Our now 21-year-old daughter wants nothing to do with her father, but our now 15-year-old son must endure court ordered visits.

My ex convinced the judge I was a bad parent, when in fact, the courts suspended his visitation with our son for two years due to his abusive relationship.

Our son, whom I took to therapy to deal with his emotions and a product of being subjected to his father, was diagnosed with PTSD and had thoughts of harming himself. His psychiatrist and long-term mental health providers both testified in court, but the judge either did not believe them, or could not legally help him.

The courts continued to victimize both our son and myself, ordering me to attend court ordered co-parenting for a year with my abusive ex. Our son was forced to go to “reunification therapy” for a solid year with his abusive father. The therapist, picked by the judge, told our son if he didn’t cooperate the judge would send him to juvenile detention!!!

Who’s word would the judge believe? Our son had to just endure it! More abuse from powerful people.

I tried for years to protect our children from their father, and the legal system did little to help. The legal system is not equipped to recognize or deal with sociopaths. It becomes a battle of “he said, she said.”

Except, I did everything right, in the best interest of our children ”¦ allowing the lies and badmouthing by the father while I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to confuse our kids.

It was pure hell for years watching our son bite himself, kick walls, scream after returning from visits with his father, bang his head, try to strangle our family pet, and draw a picture of himself dead, with a gun, with the words, “Yes, I want to go to Heaven.”

The court assigned a GAL who was an attorney, not a mental health provider. She told the judge in court, “He looks like a normal 14 year old boy.”

Where was she when he was having his meltdowns? Why doesn’t the court restructure how they handle “high conflict” cases? Why don’t they have trained mental health providers, paid for by the courts, to investigate ”¦ speak with any long standing therapists, interview teachers, family members, neighbors, doctors, who know the children and find the truth.

My son is now just given up, his spirit broken. He endures his visits with his father because the court says he must, but when he’s 18, I have no doubt, he, just like his sister, with have nothing to do with his father.

Parents like myself should do something rather than complaining, but what? I knew in my case I couldn’t fight a well-known psychologist, appointed by a judge, who never bothered to read the 6 years of court testimony.

It was hell and I wish others would not have to endure it, especially innocent children.

 


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15 Comments on "I tried for years to protect our children from their father, and the legal system did little to help"

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Rhoda – I am so sorry for what you and your son are going through. About the only consolation I can offer you is that you are not alone. Many, many Lovefraud readers have similar horror stories to tell.

Rhoda,

I would also like to say I’m sorry. It sounds like you and your kids did everything they could. Courts are just stuck on having two parents is better than one, without regard for those cases where one parent is so destructive. At least your son knows you are in his camp.

Your question is an excellent one: “Why doesn’t the court restructure how they handle “high conflict” cases? Why don’t they have trained mental health providers, paid for by the courts, to investigate ” speak with any long standing therapists, interview teachers, family members, neighbors, doctors, who know the children and find the truth.”

This is what is needed. Some of these things did happen in my case and made all the difference. We got a private judge who is also an experienced psychologist, who got wise to my sociopathic ex. My attorney was trained by the High Conflict Institute (Bill Eddy’s group). I highly recommending picking a lawyer trained there, if one uses a lawyer. They are familiar with what kinds of things the sociopaths pull. I also was lucky to have a very thorough custody evaluator who was also ordered to do a psychological evaluation.

I agree there should be a separate track for high conflict cases in which either party alleges abuse, a personality disorder, or substance abuse. These should go through a different automatic process with the needed resources behind them. They should not be shoehorned into the mediate and then have two parents co-parent model.

Wow, does your story sound like mine, except my ex is a high powered business executive whose brother is an attorney. His brother’s partner represents him for free while I pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to no avail.

My ex told me, on the day I filed for divorce, that I would pay every day of my life for divorcing him. Can not imagine why he would be so surprised since he beat me, lied to me, stole from me and then abandoned the kids and me and he took all of the money out of our household bank account leaving me $10. He also borrowed off our jointly owned home.

The past decade has been hell for the kids and me. Fortunately our daughter distanced herself from him early on and has faired well for doing so. Our son, has decided to feel sorry for his dad and accuse me of things that I never did. My son literally has no recollection of anything before the most recent 18 months. His dad has taken the child’s brain out and replaced it with all new events and interests. My son is not even close to the person we all knew and loved.

As for the judicial system, don’t get me started. My family and friends are always adamant that a judge will give my ex the ax, but it never turns out that way. Instead, he sashays into court very calm, collected and charming and he wins every time – no matter what evidence I have.

Rhonda,

I forgot to mention. My son’s custody evaluator commented that my son was a “happy well adjusted 15 year old boy.” Really? He picks at his arms and face so badly that they look like land mines. He also does not eat when at his dad’s house and he has had 10 vomiting episodes over the past six months.

Rhonda

I feel so very sorry for you, your children and for anyone else going through this situation.

Reading your nightmare stories further strengthens my belief that I – unknowingly – picked the best moment to divorce my ex spath that I could have done.

There were times – particularly when the kids said certain things about their father, that I thought I had made the most horrendous mistake staying with him, sticking with it for the family – for the children. It certainly wasn’t for me – we had absolutely no sex life for 10 years and although we plodded on most of the time, I was very unhappy and knew there was more to life than living with this spiteful bully. On the whole though, certainly in the earlier years he seemed to be a good father and I had felt it was better for the children to grow up in a family unit with two parents that loved them.

The latter part to this sentence is, of course, the most important part here Рbecause that was my mistake! They only had one parent who loved them and one who was and is РI now know Рtotally incapable of love. It was pure fa̤ade Рa brilliant mask.

However, as difficult as he made it to divorce – yes he dragged me through the courts for 2 years – by the time this started, the children were 15 and 16 and my solicitor said that at their age it would be their choice about where and with whom they wanted to live. Their father must have been told the same and in any case by the time we were due at a final hearing they were 17 and 18 and he had by that point, not spoken to them for two years so he had burned all his bridges.

I am sad for my children at the loss of the father I thought they had but I can’t pretend that I’m not relieved in some way – for their sakes, that he has nothing to do with them. I think they are much safer this way.

I’m also desperately relieved that we didn’t have to endure a custody battle – which I’m quite sure he would have gone into to win no matter the cost – because that is who he is.

Good luck and stay strong 🙂

Overthehump,

While it is sad that you stayed in a loveless marriage for so long, it seemed to be the best option all around.

When my children were 3 and 5, my ex husband (then husband) was diagnosed as a Borderline with Narcissism. I had no idea what that meant,at the time, but knew that it explained what was happening to me and our marriage. The therapist told me I had to options. One was to lead a parallel lie with him until my youngest moved on to college or leave him. She said if I left him i needed to prepare foe a fight that — as she worded and I quote — “…..would be so bad and horrific…..” When i asked her how bad it could get, her answer was, “These guys are really creative. I can’t tell you how bad it will be but, it will be bad.” I chose to lead a parallel life with him, which wasn’t such a big deal since the kids and I had been doing it since they were infants. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

My ex ended up leaving us. As he tells people, I threw him out. Not even close to the truth. The kids and i were on holiday and he came and joined us. He left the resort a day early, went home and packed it stuff. We came home to find him completely moved out. He even left all of the dressers and closets open so the kids could see that he was gone. I learned that he had an apartment for six months prior to leaving. He also created a two year smear campaign against the kids and me, unbeknownst to me, at the time. The things he said about us were outrageous.

Four months after he left, I filed for divorce. The reason I waited is that I wanted to get the children into therapy and in some kind of structure since our lives were turned upside down. He had cleaned out all of the bank accounts so I literally had $10.00 and credit cards with zero balances, so I had to use them to feed the kids and keep the lights on!!! When he was served the divorce papers, he called me to tell me that I would pay for filing and he would make every day of my life a living hell. That could sound like an empty threat, but from a sociopath it is a REAL promise; one he has kept (and the only promise he has kept).

So here I am many many years later, with my children almost 18 and 16, and not only has he kept his promise to make my life a living hell, but he has escalated his efforts. I have spent so much money on lawyers, have been in court too many times to count. My bank accounts, credit card accounts, phone and utilities accounts have all been compromised. My car has been vandalized, my tires slashed,my house broken into. He has followed me out of state. I have filed protective orders and criminal charges.

Yet, nothing happens to him and I am exposed for his antics to continue.

Terrorfromans-path

I agree it was terribly sad that I stayed in the marriage for so many years – most of them empty, sexless and terribly frustrating as a reasonably intelligent person to have to ‘bow’ to a bully for so long was incredibly difficult but I am convinced now that I did the right thing.

I must say, congratulations on getting your ex to see someone -that in itself is quite incredible and I think the ‘parallel life’ that your therapist mentioned was absolutely spot and precisely what I did for all those years. I never really thought about it like that before but that’s what it was. I suppose you could almost argue that I’m as bad as him in that sense but it was survival and for many years I admit I held the hope that things would one day improve. But of course they didn’t.

What I do know now without any doubt what-so-ever, is that if I had tried to divorce from him when the children were young (and believe me it crossed my mind) – he’d have donned his armour and fought me to the death – most probably mine!

When I was snooping to try and discover what he was actually up to, I managed to log into his FB and the things I saw over the following months were incredible and really quite chilling. It seemed his campaign to demonise me was unrelenting. I noticed him repeatedly saying things like – “I’ve just come in from karate and she’s pissed – again – on the sofa – as always – she’s been sat there all night watching TV and on her second bottle of wine now.”

The truth was I’d just come in from work or a dance class and was grabbing a bite to eat while chatting happily to the kids. He’d say things like “the kids hate it when I’m out – they can’t stand being in the house with her, she has nothing to do with them.” But it was the absolute total opposite. He was always referring to my ‘drinking’ and my ‘state of mind’ and I am pretty sure he was trying to build up a bank of people around him – neighbours, acquaintances, friend’s husbands, etc – grooming them to think I had serious problems.

He also accused myself and the kids of the most horrendous things! One time when he still living at home but not speaking to either myself or the kids he left a note on his bed saying “To the thief, stop stealing money out of my room. Dad/ex husband.” He even got his solicitor to write a letter threatening that he would call the police in if it happened again. The truth was, I had moved some change on his drawers in order to dust and polish as we had a house viewing (we were trying to sell the house). I had thought the money looked strange the way it was piled up and I suspect he had done that on purpose and then taken a photo of it to see if it had been moved!

That was one of the amusing ones – others were far from funny but not worth giving them airtime really. We had a strange break in, several flat tyres, things got moved or went missing altogether.

When he finally moved out – he still retained the key and I was not allowed to change the lock – he came and went as he pleased. One morning before we were up he snuck in and took the internet router. Our son was studying for exams and I was working from home at the time so broadband was vital and of course it meant no TV for the kids. I sorted a new router and account within 24 hours and used a hotspot for emergencies. 6 months later he did the same with the TV but this time my daughter caught him! His behaviour swayed from incredibly childish to positive threatening but somehow we got through it.

We are now divorced, have no contact since he has nothing to do with his children. We have moved and they are settling well and I have a new and wonderful man.

I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I just hope you can all find the happy ending that I have.

Overthehump,

Please don’t ever feel sad that you stayed in an empty marriage. Look at it as the sacrifice you made for your children, to keep them out of the crossfire. As much as I wanted my own life I, too, wanted to make that sacrifice. Although, I had no idea how bad it would be, it is worse than I could ever have imagined and my children are emotionally damaged for the rest of their lives. My son, literally, has no recollection of anything prior to eighteen months ago and those memories he has are completely rewritten. It’s as though his father took out the child’s brain, rinsed it in a wash and inserted new data – data that he (the s-path dad) controls. How to get my son back, if I ever can, will be a huge endeavor. He defends his dad at every turn. If his father was standing next to a bloody body with a smoking gun in his hand and the bullet in the body was identified to the gun in his hand, my son would STILL defend his dad. It’s very Stockholm Syndrome, Svengali type of stuff. So, when the judge asks my son who he wants to live with, there is no doubt the negligent never-at-home dad will win ut over me, the mom, who has rules and boundaries in her home.

My ex’s smear campaign against my daughter and me is so extensive. He tells people that I keep her away from him. No, her decision to be away from him was after a year of therapy for his discontinuing to pay her school stating she was not good enough for private school (meanwhile she is an honor student). He interfered with an offer for her to study at Oxford University three summers ago. He stopped her from having a major surgery on her jaw – literally contacting the doctor and threatening him with a lawsuit if he touched her. He refused to buy her clothes. He stopped sending her Xmas and birthday cards. My daughter’s therapist taught her that she can remove people from her life, no matter who they are, if they are going to continue to be harmful to her. Keep in mind, while he denied her everything, he showered our son with anything he wanted.

I could go on and on with a litany of the things he accused us of and the horrible things he has done to us, but to what end. Everyone on this site knows what it is to experience a stone cold sociopath. They are unrelenting and don’t operate like human beings. They are not sick, rather they are evil, evil to their cores. With a flip of a switch they can act like they are the victim and injured soul whilst they are screwing people in the back.

Just be so grateful you escaped what could have been a life long nightmare. I know, because I am living mine now.

One of the biggest questions I asked myself when I finally got the courage to file for divorce was, “Why did I stay SO long?” The marriage was 22.5 years.
I stayed because of the kids/family. I vowed that I would write a book titled “Leave for the sake of the kids” with a subtitle “Staying in a bad marriage for family sake.” The book would’ve explained all the reasons we love and cherish family. The irony for me was that if the environment that we want for the kids is an intact family unit are we willing to role model it to the children at all costs? We role model a distant father, non-loving, not affectionate or ambivalent to his wife – and then this is what the kids see – and they too might grow up to be the same distant, non-loving humans? Hmm, so while I couldn’t stand the loss of my family unit….. that notion forced me to stay OR at least made it seemingly impossible to leave. However, I think now that I unknowingly protected and sacrificed my kids in many ways. The fact that even though I pretty much gave up a sex life, intimacy on any level, and the help of “the other parent” is now strangely a blessing. My kids know that I was there for them. I did everything. I cooked for and with them, went to ALL their events, taught them all how to ride a bike, throw a ball, drive a car, etc etc. So they know exactly WHO he is. They get it!!! Had I divorced and had to share a 50/50 timeshare, it would’ve absolutely sucked and been a JOKE. It would’ve killed me to wonder who or what they were being exposed to. Staying meant the kids got pretty much me 100%. It’s not ideal, but in some ways I am looking at what was positive that came out of it.

Here’s what my 17 year old daughter said when the courts suggested re-unification therapy….. “So, I should go to counseling because he is [email protected]#ED up?” LOL If he had been involved all along reunification therapy is laughable. I asked my counselor what he thought of it. He said, “Bringing kids to therapy to teach them how to like their parent has never worked.”

honestkindgiver

Firstly, I love your daughter’s comment – that is absolutely spot on, as is the counsellor’s response.

Your story sounds very similar to mine – I was married for 23 years. Sounds like we both made the same choice to stay within a loveless, empty marriage for the ‘sake’ of the children and have both gone through the realisation that perhaps this was in fact not the right thing to do. I’m sure, like me, you felt you were always making the best decision for the children at the time but I really found it very difficult when going through the initial stages of separation – unbeknown to the kids at the time – both kids separately made comments about their dad, that made me feel like I had made a terrible mistake staying with him.

However, having read so many letters and stories on here and also seeing my ex’s horrendous behaviour throughout our divorce, I now feel validated that – like you – in a round about way – I actually made the right decision!

I absolutely know, that had they been younger he would have fought for them – albeit just as trophies – and just because he HAD to win.

He didn’t always seem a bad father he used to take them swimming sometimes and taught them to ride their bikes. But as year’s went by and more so now that I know exactly who and what he is, I realised that anything he did with them was just for show. For instance – he used to take them swimming on a Sunday with another dad and daughter. But only while it suited him. He and the other dad were part of the local Round Table at that time and he loved to boast about how they took the kids swimming every Sunday and how other dad’s don’t bother – and yet, as soon as he fell out with the other dad, he instantly stopped taking them. The kids were so upset because they wanted to go and wanted to play with the other little girl – they didn’t understand. I remember when my son was a baby and my ex still smoked heavily at that time. I used to ask him not to smoke in the house. He would get really angry and say the windows were open so there’s no problem. I’d end up taking my son upstairs or outside or to the kitchen just to avoid the smoke – and yet when friends would come over with their baby or child – he’d go out in the back garden, rain or snow, even though they would protest it wasn’t necessary, it would be “oh no – I would never smoke in the house with a child around!”

As they were growing up, people would often compliment how well behaved the children were in a restaurant, or how pretty our daughter was, how amazingly talented our son was and he seemed to gleam with pride as any parent would but it was really all about him. As soon as they did something wrong – however mild – he’d shut them out and ignore them for weeks on end. They could only be his ‘trophies’ – part of his elaborate mask – while they were being perfect! Any deviation from that and he no longer liked them – he even said once he hated one of them. I think it was then that I realised he didn’t love them. That’s not love. And I started to question his ability to love full stop.

I once read something about a sociopath and it described my ex to a tee. “He routinely disposed of people once their burden exceeded their utility.” This is so true of my ex. Friends, colleagues, his family and even his children. He’s lived his life ‘culling’ those around him whenever they were no longer useful to him. Then he throws himself into new friendships – full on – like a 5 year old with a new ‘best mate’. A new circle of friends brings a new chance to re-invest himself. Until that all goes pear shape and he has to move on again.

I pity him. And I’m relieved in the end that I did things the way I did – albeit unwittingly – I believe it was the right timing. At least my kids are safe with the parent that loves and adores them and will do everything possible to steer them in the right direction and keep them safe. And they have seen for themselves, exactly what and who their father is.

Hi Rhoda,

I understand exactly what you and your son are going through. I haven’t won in court yet but know it is a long, arduous and emotional process for all involved. You mentioned your daughter and that she no longer attends visits with her father. Can she not bite her lip long enough to go along with her brother in order to protect him and stand up for him? It is a lot to ask but if she is 21 years old her testimony as to how the visits are going with the father would go a long way if need to. Ask your daughter to do this and state that you are very concerned for her brother.

Teen suicide is something to be afraid of especially when they feel so helpless. Ask your daughter to tag along for the purpose of her brother. I hope that she will agree.

As I have always stated to my children, stay back to back and one does not leave without the other. Please try this. I wish well on you and your children, in particular your son.

Whether we stay or leave our s-paths, our children have the unfortunate experience of an s-path parent. No matter how much we try to shelter them from the horrors of an s-path parent, they don’t learn how to model healthy relationships since they don’t get the opportunity to observe one.

For the past two and half years, I have been in an incredibly healthy relationship. My ex, on the other hand, has a relationship with his fiance that resembles the one he had with me almost to a T. Our son, who is fifteen, one day told me that my boyfriend is my “bitch.” I was shocked to hear such a thing and asked him why he said that. He answered that my boyfriend is led around by me and will do whatever I tell him. Of course that is not at all true. Quickly, he mentioned how his dad pushes his fiance, they fight in restaurants and make scenes in public when one of them gets mad at the other. He even said that sometimes when she leaves his father’s house or they drop her off at her house, his dad will comment to our son that his fiance gets on his nerves, is obnoxious, embarrassing and she makes him so mad, etc.

After listening to my son, it dawned on me that my son’s normal perception of adult “loving” relationships is that of his father and fiance’s and not of mine and my boyfriend’s. Because my boyfriend and I don’t fight, speak respectfully to one another and when we disagree we do it lovingly and respectfully, my son perceives that as my boyfriend being a pushover.

What I know, and with great pain in my heart, is that my son WILL treat women the way my ex treats his fiance and the way he treated me. That is all he knows and what feels comfortable to him, even if he knows it is wrong.

This is just one way an s-path poisons our children.

As for the courts, we have to tell our children that the s-path loves them, is a good parent, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, love means telling the vet to put the “f%$g cat to sleep” because it had a kidney infection and s-path did not want to pay the $35 dollars for antibiotics but all the while was an Executive Board member of the local chapter of the Human Society and always wrote out big checks to support the organization.

Reunification therapy, in my very humbled opinion, is a farce. It rolls back to the telling the kids that the s-path loves them while the children receive behavior from the s-path that speaks to any thing but love.

That’s why I am so utterly relieved that this all happened when the kids were that bit older. Thankfully during our marriage they saw/heard very little of the bad behaviour. As they got a bit older and in the latter couple of years they heard a few rows and saw their father ignoring me for several weeks but he also tended to do it to them and numerous friends, neighbours, relatives, etc. Because of this, they grew tired of his behaviour. Whenever he did this either to me or them I would talk to them about it and say look, it’s your dad’s way but it’s not my way and its not the right way and I don’t condone it in anyway – he just doesn’t know any better. I’ve persevered with this message throughout their lives.

When things got really bad and I made the realisation that what I had always thought of as his ‘issues’ and ‘demons’ were in fact symptoms of a serious mental condition, I gradually drip-fed that to the kids.

It started by me allowing them to overhear conversations about what I’d read about lists of symptoms of a sociopath and of course one would pipe up and say – that’s describing dad! Then off their own backs – they both started to do some reading themselves and after several conversations they had come to their own conclusion that he is indeed a sociopath.

Anyone who’s parent has deserted them would be grateful for an explanation and they have found that in their own discoveries. So rather than being the bitter ex wife and mother who despises their father (although let’s face it, I’d be happy if I never set eyes on him again) – I try and teach them to pity him. Be wary of him, keep away from him – which is easy as he has nothing to do with them but to find it in their hearts to pity him. He’s mentally ill at the end of the day and will grow to be a sad lonely, empty old man.

I am also in a fantastic and loving relationship now (for 2+ years) and they seem very happy with the way that we behave and treat each other. Perhaps its because they’re a little older.

But don’t give up on your son growing into a fine young man. Its absolutely true that children learn from the adults around them but if one parent is bad then the other has to work twice as hard to mould them and bend them learn the right way. Try and expose your son not just to your healthy relationship but to other extended family or friends around him.

Keep showing your son the right way and don’t underestimate him because he’s half you as well as half your ex.

I’m happy for you and your new relationship, and that your kids accept it and see that it is pleasant and normal, rather than pathologic and nasty. That is what I wanted and expected if I got into another relationship. Now that I have been for over a year, they do not see such nice, normal behavior as a plus, and they do not accept it. It is too bad, because I wanted them to learn to model a normal, loving, caring, calm relationship where differences are discussed nicely and some conclusion is decided, rather than endless screaming fights with no resolution on issues that became circular. It does not always work out to such a fairy tale ending, even if they get that the sociopath is one.

I know that I am lucky. I sometimes have to stop and pinch myself because I can’t believe how happy I feel. Like the majority of people on this site, I’ve had some very difficult times because of my relationship not just with one sociopath but with two. I am quite convinced my step mother also suffers from the same condition – she may even be worse than my ex but like many of these people she hides behind a mask of decency. A ‘sweet’ little old lady now – who goes to church and involves herself in charity but behind the mask is a cruel, controlling, highly strung and sometimes violent, pathological liar.

I ‘escaped’ her clutches in my early twenties and feel straight into the arms of a wonderfully charming, kind, gentlemanly sociopath!!

So I feel utterly blessed now to have come through the fog and to be in a loving, balanced relationship. Thankfully the kids also seem to see it that way. Its probably a lot to do with the fact they don’t see their father – he has nothing to do with them.

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