First, you have taken the hardest step. By researching your options and recognizing the problem that you need to get out of, you have taken one of the hardest and most difficult steps in moving forward. Deciding to divorce your sociopath spouse takes courage, resilience and an amazing knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney. Divorcing a sociopath means that you will have to address many of the behaviors that you have had to live with and experience during the marriage, but this time with a greater, deeper understanding of the deceptive behaviors and how they are harmful to both, you as well as your children. Often the sociopath’s behavior is characterized by deception, manipulation and intimidation to try to get what he or she wants. How is divorcing a sociopath different and more challenging than other cases? What can you do to minimize or lessen the impact on both, yourself and your children? Pingel Family Law’s highest priority when representing someone divorcing a sociopath is trying to help minimize the negative effects to the victimized spouse and the children.
Whether you believe your spouse has sociopathic tendencies or your spouse has actually been diagnosed with sociopathic disorder, it is important that you work with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney in attempting to divorce and “get away” from a sociopath.
What Exactly is a Sociopath?
The American Psychiatric Association writes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder and the DSM defines all psychiatric diseases and disorders. They specifically define a person with anti-social personality disorder (which includes the category of sociopaths and psychopaths) as someone who has little to no regard for the rights and needs of others and typically, their lack of regard is without remorse. Some people confuse the portion of the disorder description that includes “anti-social” to misunderstand that it defines someone who is withdrawn from society. Rather this actually defines a person who refuses to abide by laws, rules and acceptable societal norms and behaviors. Often psychopaths or sociopaths are very charming, socially engaging, and even successful people.
How Do I Begin the Process of Divorcing a Sociopath?
When divorcing an abusive spouse who has severe psychiatric disorder(s), it is important to have courage as often seeing the process through requires sacrifice and courage. While it can sometimes seem that a hard situation gets worse before it gets better, the long term outcome of being free from a psychopath or sociopath betters the life of the victim spouse and the innocent children who are involved. Often this is a difficult process because the spouses are deeply enmeshed and, as in many families, the victim spouse is often dependent upon the abusive spouse financially or in other ways.
What Is Abuse?
There is a legal definition that includes intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, sexual assault, placing the victim in reasonable apprehension (fear) of imminent (immediate) bodily safety, stalking, harassment, threats of abuse, among many other types of behaviors. Recently, courts have begun defining abuse as more subtle behaviors to include coercive control, controlling, regulating, monitoring movements, communications, finances, access to funds, or access to services. Finally, abuse is also compelling a person by force or threat of force or intimidation including threats based on actual or suspected immigration status, and/or forcing or compelling someone to engage in behavior or forcing someone to abstain from behavior which they have the right to engage in.
What is Situational Domestic Violence?
Situational domestic violence is often related to situations or external things that cause an otherwise non-abusive individual to lash out in a moment of anger. While many different situations can cause “lashing out” the most common things seen are often infidelity, when infidelity is discovered and confronted or even drugs or alcohol abuse which causes a spouse to act in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise- if they were sober. Situational abuse or domestic violence is just as serious and dangerous as a repetitive pattern of domestic violence. If you are the victim of any domestic violence, including situational domestic violence, when it occurs, you need to understand your legal rights and duties, including the necessity of protecting the children and your right to seek a protective order to keep the violent spouse away from you. In many situations, once domestic violence begins, it will reoccur frequently and with more regularity. It’s as though once a spouse “crosses the line” or the boundary and moves forward with domestic violence that he or she now feels an invitation to continue crossing the line, particularly if there are not any meaningful consequences for the domestic violence.
Working Up the Courage To Divorce A Psychopath or Sociopath?
There is a remarkably high correlation between psychopaths or sociopaths engaging in domestic violence. Often the domestic violence is simply intended to keep a spouse within the mentally ill spouse’s control. The violence is often accompanied with threats, intimidation and deep hostility- often of the spouse AND the children. One of the efforts that a psychopath or sociopath will engage in is to build a longstanding history or belief in their victims (the spouse and the children) that they are powerless and hopeless to make changes in or escape their abusive relationship. Where possible, seeking a restraining or protection from abuse order is often needed as it allows some space, distance and time for processing for the victim spouse.
In situations where you have been a victim for an extended amount of time, it is important that you work with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney who can also provide you with resources, including therapists, vocational rehabilitation counselors and other professionals who can help you rebuild your life and start over. You need to be empowered to face your abuser through the legal process. Put our compassion, skills and experience to work for you at Pingel Family Law at (816) 208-8130. Call today to schedule your consultation!