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.