A woman sent me an email today asking for advice in her custody case. I won’t mention her name as I don’t want to blow her identity; however, she had some great questions. She has been fighting her psycho ex for two years and they are just getting to their custody trial (in a couple of months). Luckily, she learned he was dangerous just before her daughter was born. Based on her questions, here is some additional advice for those of you who are waring with one of these monsters:
1. Do NOT allow him/her to change the schedule: People like this are really terrible about making everything all about them. They will use anything they can as a means to manipulate and control. This is why its worth the money spent in court to get a detailed custody order. If he decides he needs to cancel his visit, then he doesn’t have a visit. Period. Otherwise, he will be holding you hostage to HIS schedule. Don’t start allowing this because its a slippery slope.
2. If there is no order, you don’t need to give him access: That’s right – I said it. No order = no access. If you believe (as I believe about Luc) that your ex is violent and would abuse your child either verbally or physically, you don’t need to hand the child over unless there is a legal document. If you are called out for blocking access, just simply state your reasons (and make sure to attempt to take your personal hatred for that person out of it). This has nothing to do with how much you hate him for being pond scum. You are trying to protect your child and without an order he will have access to you (which could be dangerous) and you will have no legal grounds if he takes the child and doesn’t bring them back.
3. Document everything: Keep a journal of any contact he tries to have with you and a visit log for all the times he sees your child. Track the cancelled visits (there will be some) and make sure you get in writing that any visit cancellation (or attempt to change the schedule) was HIM and not you. (Luc tried to cancel and blame me as if we didn’t have a record of this) No matter how old your child is, make sure you record their behavior when they return. If they are verbal, keep a record of their comments.
4. Hold professionals accountable: If the visits are supervised, make sure the supervisor is honest. If she is telling you he is abusive or expressing her concerns about him (that are relevant to his child rearing), try and get her to write them. In my experience, people might tell you one thing and then in court turn around and say that they have no concerns. Don’t rely on your lawyers to prep this person. Do it yourself.
5. Lawyers manage expectations: Don’t just rely on what your lawyers are telling you. This is YOUR child and you are JUST their client. Lawyers are good at giving you worst case scenarios so that if the outcome is less than desirable you won’t hate them (and not pay them). If you feel strongly about something, push for it. For example, don’t let them talk you into asking for what you want from the court. If you think an all day visit is unreasonable, make them suggest something different.
6. Court evaluations: Bless their hearts….many court evaluators try and make sure they clearly document the crazy that they see after meeting with a psychopath. While some judges take their comments and report into consideration – some don’t. These people are not doctors so their “diagnosis” will not be treated as such. If this evaluator suggests that someone who knows the psychopath supervise the visit – push back because this is not acceptable.
7. Psychological evaluations: If the court orders him to get a psych eval based on the court evaluators concerns, try and push the court to order a specific independent psychologist. If this doesn’t happen, he will inevitably find someone who is not experienced (mine went and hired a child evaluator who I am sure had never seen someone so disordered). He will also find someone who will end up being his mouthpiece in court. Most psychologists have never seen someone like this because psychopaths don’t seek therapy. They think they are perfect.
Finally, try and stay sane. A custody war is very emotionally taxing. Possibly even more taxing than the chaotic relationship itself. Your child needs you. You are the only healthy parent they have. If you go to court and appear crazy yourself (because he has driven you nuts), the judge will be looking at two crazy people and be forced to choose the lesser of two evils.
Psychopaths are good at hiding their crazy. Luc hid it from me just like your ex likely hid it from you. They are amazing actors and will come to court with their new victim or some other people they have fooled into thinking they are not parasites. They will get on the stand and cry on demand. They will remain calm as they explain how the court should pity them because they are the victim. My ex actually sat on the stand and described his rape of a woman as an event that traumatized HIM and made him feel like the victim. After several of Luc’s victims came to court to testify against him, the numerous accounts of child abuse and arrests (I had a police officer come to court in a different state to testify against him), and his own ridiculously strange testimony, he was still awarded unsupervised visitation.
Our justice system is broken; however, in order to fix it we must all end the silence.