Lovefraud received the following e-mail from a woman who we’ll call “Penny.” She’s been in a custody battle with the father of her child, who she believes is a sociopath. Although Penny has been able to gain full physical and legal custody of the child, and has a restraining order against the father, he still has visitation so Penny must deal with child exchanges. She’s provided the following tips for others who are in similar situations.
1. STAY STRONG IN GOD! I know that this is difficult at times because I myself have been tried so much. Go to church regularly and tell the pastor(s) and counselors at your church what you are dealing with and ask them and the congregation to pray for you. Pray and read your Bible. If you are not religious you might want to try this out anyway or meditate to bring peace to your soul. It is absolutely necessary that you find some peace in a situation that is utter chaos and dysfunction.
2. DO NOT TAKE THEIR BAIT! I have read on several websites (including this one), and books like The Sociopath Next Door, by Dr. Martha Stout, and also Without Conscience, by Dr. Robert Hare, that stress this very point. I found this out the hard way and have learned from experience that this only adds to the problem because the sociopath is often trying to get a reaction out of you. Reacting or retaliating against the sociopath only fuels the fire. Although it might sound clichÃ©, one can only truly and successfully fight evil with goodness, especially in this case.
3. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! Sociopaths (as my ex is) are pathological liars and are bound to contradict themselves in their stories. Thorough logs of all events with the sociopath and also supporting documents such as emails, police documents, medical records, court documents, etc., can all be of help when dealing with a sociopath in a situation such as this. When the time is right (sometimes its smart to let time go by so that the sociopath can implicate, perjure, and hang him/herself some more) you might decide to file the appropriate paperwork in court (i.e. Order to Show Cause for custody and visitation, declarations, motions for contempt of court, etc.) and attach the documents that you have been logging and saving as exhibits/evidence to your court papers (you can ask an attorney, paralegal, or family law self help center or other similar groups how to do this). If you have the financial resources, you might want to consider a deposition as another opportunity to let the animal perjure him/herself some more.
4. REQUEST EXPLICIT COURT ORDERS! I have found through personal experience that sociopaths will exploit and take advantage of any ambiguity or vagueness in court orders to create complete and utter chaos. You must push for detailed court orders when you go to court to prevent this from happening.
5. IF POSSIBLE, ASK THE COURT TO ARRANGE CHILD EXCHANGES AT LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENTS! Doing this eliminates the opportunity of having to interact with the sociopath at your home or his/her home as well as other places that are easy for chaos to occur. Arrive at the exchange early and let the officers know that you are there for a child exchange (make sure you always have the court orders with you so that the police can see it if need be) and you can ask the desk officers if they can monitor the exchange.
6. HAVE PEOPLE OTHER THAN YOU THAT YOU TRUST AND ARE GOOD PEOPLE DO THE EXCHANGE OF YOUR CHILD(REN) IF POSSIBLE! Making yourself as invisible as possible might increase the chances of cutting the sociopath out of your life since he or she will no longer be able to see you sweat. Remember to always stay calm and collected when the sociopath tries to anger you (you can cry and vent in private) even and especially in court.
7. BE CAUTIOUS IN STATING THAT YOUR EX IS A SOCIOPATH! Many people, including the courts, child welfare organizations, lawyers, etc., are not familiar with this devastating disorder and as a result do not know how to respond properly to the warning signs (as many of us did not know how to until we were caught in a complex web of deception). Therefore, focus on proving the behavior of the sociopath in court using the strategies I suggested earlier and do not accuse your ex as being a sociopath in court. They will not take this seriously since you are probably not a professional licensed to make such a diagnosis.
8. PUSH FOR COMMUNICATION BETWEEN YOU AND THE EX TO BE THROUGH EMAIL ONLY WHEN YOU GO TO COURT! Communication using this vehicle of communication helps to eliminate the possibility of he said/she said. Websites such as www.ourfamilywizard.com are excellent because they provide an opportunity for you to communicate with your ex via email and all the communication is safe and secure and can easily be printed out (all emails also include the date and exact time the emails were sent and viewed by the other party and also include the time any printed emails are generated). Also, the website allows you to input your parenting schedules, input medical information for the child, and offers a journal, free children’s accounts to the child(ren) involved and can also offer professional accounts for minor’s counsel and possible others to oversee the account and monitor what is going on.
9. PUSH THE COURT FOR PERMISSION TO VIDEO OR TAPE RECORD EXCHANGES AND MAKE SURE THIS IS WRITTEN IN THE COURT ORDER! Doing this helps to eliminate any possibility for potential chaos.
10. GET ALL INFORMATION STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE! Do not rely on any information the sociopath provides you. Always verify all information concerning the child or children with their doctors, teachers, counselors, etc. If possible have the child(ren’s) doctors, teachers, counselors, etc. document all information they give you.
11. DO NOT CUT THE SOCIOPATH ANY SLACK! Record and document any and all violations of court orders. Recording these violations may be helpful when you go to court.
12. HIRE AN EXPERIENCED COMPETENT ATTORNEY, AND IF POSSIBLE ONE THAT HAS EXPERIENCE IN DEALING WITH SOCIOPATHS OR OTHER SIMILAR PERSONALITY DISORDERS! Child custody cases involving sociopaths are complicated and need the skill, experience, and know-how of a professional.
13. TRUST YOUR GUT! Oftentimes, we doubt our intuitions when we shouldn’t. In my personal experience I found that there were warning signs but did not respond to them as I should have because I took the signs lightly. Likewise, when I was drawn into my ex’s net of deception and chaos, I knew something was wrong, and attempted to explain what I believed was wrong with my ex to my previous attorney, but the attorney did not understand and discouraged me from engrossing myself in research. She stated that doing so could help me to become emotionally and mentally unstable (the attorney did not have experience in dealing with such complex personalities and so did not know how to properly respond to my ex’s actions). I later decided to trust my gut and continued with my research. Through research, trial and error, I have learned how to better deal with my ex and I do not respond to his baits (my ex has accused me of being a sociopath and has falsely accused me of harassing him).
14. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! Living well is truly the best revenge. As difficult as it may be, try not to let the sociopath make you a bitter, angry, mean person. Remember the ultimate goal of the sociopath is to frustrate you. Enjoy your child(ren) while they are with you and let them know that you love them. Listen to them and model what real love looks like while they are in your care. Let them see you in loving relationships with other people. Criticize their actions and not them in private and DO NOT talk badly about the other parent in their presence (this can give the other parent an opportunity to bring parental alienation charges against you); instead you can let them know that actions like the ones their parents are exhibiting are wrong and hurtful to others and that this behavior is undesirable. Also, don’t forget to eat (like I have in the past), exercise, sleep, and laugh! Do not under any circumstances allow the sociopath to rob you of your ability to laugh.