By | April 6, 2007 6 Comments

Love fraud: A spectrum (Part 2)

In Love Fraud: A spectrum, part 1, I defined four types of fraudulent behavior within love relationships. These represent points on a continuum from predatory love fraud, where the intent is to destroy the other party, to adultery. All love fraud has a negative effect on the children produced in these relationships. Here, I will make the case that adulterous love fraud makes it difficult for legislators to write laws protecting children from sociopaths.

A case of adultery and emotional abuse

Jim and Nancy married young and were initially in love. They had three children over 5 years. Nancy took time away from her career to care for the children while Jim stayed in the work force. Jim was good at his job and well liked. He advanced quickly in his career. This advancement left him feeling powerful and energized. Nancy on the other hand, was preoccupied with nurturing the children, and didn’t continue to nurture herself or her marriage to Jim. Jim grew bored with Nancy, who was no longer as attractive as the women he met at work. Jim did have a loving relationship with his children and participated as father, though he did not have the same bond with them as Nancy, the full-time caregiver. Jim had an affair, then filed for divorce from Nancy in order to marry the other woman. In the divorce negotiations, Jim argued for joint custody of his children.

In the above example, Jim’s behavior is selfish and immoral, but Jim is capable of loving his children. He just no longer wishes to be with Nancy. He can argue that his children are better off maintaining a close relationship with him because he has much to offer as their father. Jim also feels that his connection to his children has always been separate from his connection to Nancy.

Nancy argues that Jim’s behavior was emotionally abusive to her. Especially since Jim told her that she is boring and overweight. Nancy is also upset by the thought of Jim’s adulterous relationship. The idea that the children spend time with Jim and his new partner is very upsetting to Nancy. Society and the current system ask Nancy to cope with these feelings herself, “for the sake of the children.” The problem is that when Nancy is stressed the children suffer, even when Nancy tries to cope. Numerous studies demonstrate that caregiver stress has a negative effect on children.

The best interests of the children

In cases like the one above, the court has to sort out the best interests of the children. The court therefore does not recognize that Jim’s immoral behavior is pertinent to the child custody arrangement. If the court does not recognize the presence of this immoral behavior as important to child custody issues, then what types of immoral behavior should be recognized? If Jim is awarded joint custody of the children against Nancy’s wishes, then the next parent who perhaps on a couple of occasions was physically abusive to his/her partner should also receive joint custody and liberal visitation.

Sociopaths often are emotionally abusive to their spouses and often commit adultery. If the court cannot recognize the pertinence of these overt behaviors, in custody disputes, then by what basis would the court limit a sociopath’s parental rights? The waters are further muddied by the immoral behavior of mental health professionals and lawyers who consult in child custody disputes. It seems one can buy a professional to testify to almost anything in court.

More research and new legislation is needed

The presence of personality disorders such as sociopathy and narcissism should be a factor in deciding child custody arrangements. In making these diagnoses, professionals need full access to personal history and need to do more than just interview the person they are evaluating. Furthermore, more research into how people professionals diagnose as sociopaths and narcissists function as parents is needed. There is some research regarding sociopaths and abandonment of children (which is very common). There are few studies of the effect visitation with sociopathic parents has on children. Because there is little research, every time the court awards visitation to a sociopath, a child is made a guinea pig.

In addition to more research, we also need professionals to perform psychological evaluations who have no financial stake in the outcome of the testimony. Currently it is too easy for professional testimony to be purchased.

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I have some problems with using adultery solely as a reason to evaluate the validatiy of granting joint custosy. My problem with this is the value judgment that adultery is “immoral.” Morality is defined by culture and even to some extent is political. Therefore, I cannot agree that to factor adultery into the issue of joint custody wherein there is also, according to your story, that Jim displayed a consistant effort to be a good parent and provider for his children.

However, I cannot disagree that the individuals evaluating the issue of joint custody need to have access to ALL the information regarding the both parents. This will help to discover whether “either” of the parents have more serious problems wherein the adultery is only a symptom of something much more insidious that may result in harming the children.


I am not an expert, but it seems extreme to me that someone would lose visitation because of committing adultry and making comments about the partner being overweight and boring. I thought I read that the most ideal visitation arrangement is when children can maintain ongoing, loving relationships with both parents. I challenged my ex’s visitation because he is so extremely hateful towards me….much, much worse than being called overweight and boring. His hatred is so intense that it threatens the children from maintaining a loving relationship with me. I know when I have been in counseling, the counselors have been interested in the fact that my ex’s own father died when he was four and that a father figure was absent from his life. I thought that not having a parent in a child’s life can be emotionally demaging. At what point a parent’s behavior is bad enough that it outweighs the benefits of having a relationship with the child seems to be a tough call.
I agree with you about professionals needing to be thorough in their investigations. I believe that was lacking in my own case. I was naive in thinking that the people involved in my situation would be thorough and they were not. Hindsight is 20/20. I would have handled things so differently knowing what I know today. I think GAL’s need to be accountable for what they do. In my case, my ex and I were not allowed to see her report. This does not allow people to set the record straight on misinformation given by the other parent. I was never asked to clarify any facts. I don’t even know how the GAL could have come to any conclusions without talking with us more. This GAL filed her first report without talking to our marriage counselor or my son’s counselor. When I found this out, I contacted my lawyer and he requested that the court ask her to talk to them, but do you see that at that point, this GAL would not want to be proven negligent in her omission, so she would be inclined to paint the picture in a way to support her original point of view. All of this costs a lot of money too and I barely have enough money to get by as it is. Money has played a big part in how my situation has turned out as well. Whoever has the most money to pay all those court and legal fees definitely has the advantage. It’s a tough situation with no easy answers.


I get no visitiation because my husband brainwashed them and manipulated them. Because they are of the age to say they don’t want to go the courts do nothing. I was with them always and he was the absent father. He never attended one baptism. He got them strictly so he would not have to pay child support. I fought in court to get a phone call once a week from my 13 year old daughter which is now a big joke. It costs alot of money and courts don’t seem to care anyway because their so good at manipulating the system. Funny I never had to go to court prior to his dumping of me for a new life with his new woman who has money.
There is no answer because money is power and I spent a ton so far…for what…it didn’t help and he still won. It is all about the winning with them. I didn’t want to win I just wanted to be a mother.

arlene – that’s called Parental Alienation.

Have you seen a domestic violence advocate? has some links.

you are right though – the court system with these guys really does stink.


I see Dr. Leedom’s point. In the case of children and the wide spectrum of personalities that can be labeled “sociopathic” it is not like the spectrum of who can be labeled by the courts: drug dealers (I use this as an example that most of us can understand and relate to…not to offend anyone).

Laws are easy to make in these cases because simple “possession” qualifies an offender for a pre-set punishment and for the most part a mandatory minimum is already in place (especially in Federal cases) and nothing can lessen that minimum-not even a judge.

How can a court “justly” (I use the term justly, loosely because that was our fore-father’s intention when this system was created: Justice ,though we all know the truth is in the eye of the victim and most times the courts are anything but Just) determine who is capable of being a loving parent and who isn’t based on them commiting adultery or cheating?

Adultery and physical betrayal are shady areas because there will always be what we in Criminal Justice call: extenuating circumstances. These are facts that serve to render conduct less serious and therefore punishments are less harsh (please note the opposite can also be true as the same circumstances can be used to increase a penalty or crimes’ severity.)

Blanket punishments may look to be the answer to those of us who are dealing with trauma associated with being a victim but social control is a direct result of making laws that equally penalize for a crime across the board. This law that would be propsed penalizing a parent for having extra-marital relations can go both ways:

Case in point:

What if “Jim” cheated on his wife because he thought she was overweight, boring and because he caught her in bed with his brother? What happens then? Do both parents lose custody? In the case of a blanket punishment where extenuating circumstances could not come into play, the children would be placed in state custody. Is that the answer? Maybe not the intended one but in this case if there was a blanket punishment, that would be the exact result. No one wins…

We have to truly ask if the ends justify the means. If your circumstances warrant that they do, as in the case of a parent who suffered love fraud as a means of destruction, I would say..yes, go for it. Because in the end those type of manipulators/sociopaths don’t WANT or even care to be good parents. As Dr. Leedom previously pointed out, adulterous and like-minded parents are very much capable of being EXCELLENT parents but horrible spouses.

My mother is one of those sociopaths hell-bent on destruction-children are pawns nothing more, nothing less. But in the case of those people who are adulterers…I would say that is a fine line that I am not willing to cross.

Sure we don’t want our children exposed to these types of behaviors. If we have sons, as victimized women, we want for our sons to grow up as the proverbial “night in shining armor” we want them to love, respect and cherish women, not victimize them-and we want these traits to be geniune and not false-not a result of a sociopathic gene that was passed on in utero. But is it our right to completely ban our children from a father who loved and supported them, men who are genuinely good fathers because they hurt us? I say think about the kids. I was one of them and if my mother wasn’t a sociopath who used me as a weapon against my dad, maybe I would not be alone.

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