10 tactics for child custody battles with sociopaths

Last week Dr. Liane Leedom wrote about the tragic case Dr. Amy Castillo, whose children were murdered by their psychopathic father after several judges issued rulings that failed to protect them. I hope this terrible and extreme case will be a wake-up call for family courts.

Lovefraud frequently receives e-mail from men and women involved in child custody disputes with sociopaths, who hopefully, are not murderers. Here is one of them:

I am involved in a custody case with a sociopath, however, my case is being fought in Europe where I recently relocated to (I am American, he is European). After being the sole caregiver of my children for five years, I had no choice but to leave them with their father and return to the States. When we separated he took their passports and left the country for a year. It was NOT possible to obtain new passports for children without BOTH parents’ signatures.

By the end of that year my financial situation was desperate and I had no choice. I came back to the States, got myself back on my feet and recently I started my own company as a Virtual Assistant, allowing me to work anywhere in the world. While in the States I came back to Europe every six to eight weeks to visit my children. Well one month ago, I relocated back to Europe to live and continue my fight for custody of my children.

The court case had already been ongoing since January and in typical sociopath style he has lied and forged documents. Even so, my ex was recently given sole custody (temporarily while custody is decided) and that I must pay him 900 euros (around $1,300 USD a month!). As if that could not be bad enough, he sends me on a regular basis (the most recent being today) faxes full of lies and accusations that he then turns around and uses as evidence in his court case!!! Furthermore, I do NOT have 900 euros a month to give him. I just relocated and started my own business and this is a real slap in the face with all of the financial damage he has done to me as well as my credit in the U.S.

I have fired my attorneys and hired the best Custody/Family attorney where I live. He has been in practice for 30 years and not lost a case! Also he is known to be a very strong and tough attorney. I wish I would have had him in the beginning. So with this I feel confidence.

The reason I am writing is because although I have a very positive outlook and feel that I am a strong person, as I know that most of you can agree, it is very difficult dealing with a sociopath. When I receive these horrible faxes my stomach just drops and it can make me feel very anxious for hours after. So now I have stopped reading them at all. I do not know what I am looking for by sending this email. I think I just need the support of knowing there are others out there going through the same things as me and that this is manageable and that I will make it through. I would greatly appreciate hearing what others have done in a situation like this. Thank you.

Like most parents fighting a custody battle with a sociopath, this woman faces a difficult times. Below are some general suggestions about child custody and sociopaths.

Get him or her to walk away

If your ex is a sociopath, at best, he or she will be a lousy parent. At worst, he or she will intentionally try to damage your children. Therefore, if at all possible, it may be best to cut the sociopath out of your children’s lives.

You may want to consider offering the sociopath an incentive to walk away. Tell the sociopath to give up parental rights, and he or she won’t have to pay any child support. You may feel that you need the child support payments, but chances are that you’ll never get the money, or it will always be a struggle to get it. The money isn’t worth having the predator in your family’s life. Figure out a way to support your children without it.

Sometimes this works—there are sociopaths who care more about money than kids. But many times it doesn’t, because the sociopath considers children to be possessions. Or, the sociopath just wants to win the battle with you, and destroy you in the process. In those cases, you’ll end up in court.

Tactics in custody battles

I am forever grateful that I never had children with my sociopathic ex-husband. I avoided the most tragic of circumstances involving these predators—a child custody battle. Therefore, the suggestions I make below come from my research and what Lovefraud readers have told me.

If you’re fighting a custody battle with a sociopath, here are some tactics to follow:

1. Document, document, document.
Keep a journal of everything that happens. Often, the craziness is so intense that you don’t want to remember what happens. Your journal will be important when you need to tell a cohesive story of what has been going on with the sociopath, especially if you need to tell it long after events have transpired. Save every scrap of paper, every e-mail, every fax, every receipt. Develop a way of organizing the information, whether chronological, or by topic. Keep copies in a safe place.

2. Have witnesses
It is best not to deal with the sociopath alone; every interaction then becomes he said/she said. Have a trusted friend or relative present during child exchanges or other interactions as much as you can. You may even want to consider tape recording and videotaping some of what goes on.

3. Get your own information
Do not allow the sociopathic parent to control information about your children. Make sure you get information directly from schools, doctors and others.

4. Hire an aggressive, competent attorney
Child custody cases with sociopaths are not normal cases. The sociopath will not play by the rules. Your attorney must understand this. The sociopath will lie in court, although his or her performance will appear heartfelt, like he or she is “just concerned with the welfare of the children.” The sociopath will make outrageous accusations. The sociopath is also likely to retain an attorney who is also sociopathic. Therefore, your attorney must be up for the challenge.

5. Do not allow lies to become part of the court record
Sociopaths lie. Sociopaths lie convincingly. You cannot allow unchallenged lies to become part of the court records. Once they are, they take on the aura of truth, and put you in a very bad position. Some lies, like accusations of child abuse, may haunt you forever.

6. Be cautious in stating that your ex is, in fact, a sociopath
Unfortunately, many judges really do not understand what this means to the welfare of a child. Like the general public, many judges equate “sociopath” with “serial killer,” and may consequently believe that you are overreacting. So it may not be in your best interest to prove that he or she is a sociopath. Focus on proving the behavior.

7. Stay calm in court
You must present a calm, professional image when you go to court, even as the sociopath lies. Do not allow the sociopath to make you emotional. The sociopath will accuse you of being unstable, and you will prove it by your behavior in court. Keep your emotions in check, at least in front of the judge.

8. Make sure court orders are explicit
Insist on detailed court orders. The order should not say, “parent has visitation every other weekend.” It should specify exactly which weekends, starting at what times, returning at what times, who is responsible for transporting children, who is responsible for bathing and feeding them—everything must be spelled out in detail. If there is any ambiguity, the sociopath will exploit it.

9. Make the sociopath abide by court orders
If the sociopath fails to honor the orders, do not cut him or her any slack. Record any violation. Call the police if necessary. Continue to document everything that happens, because you may need to go to court again. If you ever decide that you need to cut the sociopath out of the child’s life, you’ll need evidence to do it.

10. Take care of yourself
You will need all your resources to deal with the sociopath. Therefore, make healthy decisions in your own life. Eat right, avoid drugs and alcohol, get enough sleep, exercise and develop a support network. In order to care for your children, you must care for yourself.

Post your suggestions

I previously reviewed the book, Win Your Child Custody War, on the Lovefraud Blog. This book is full of information that may help you, from how to gather documentation to how to hire an attorney and private investigator.

If Lovefraud readers have any more suggestions that may be helpful to others involved in custody battles with sociopaths, please post it in comments below.

789 Comments on "10 tactics for child custody battles with sociopaths"

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  1. KarmaChameleon says:

    I have an update to my situation and could use some help. My son’s therapist recommended a parenting coordinator because my ex spath will not follow her suggestions and will not follow the parenting plan, and is still being abusive to my son. My attorney advised me to NOT accept this recommendation because this would be nothing more than another route for the spath to abuse me. Turns out the spath had immediately contacted his attorney about this recommendation and filed a motion against me stating I was the reason for the recommendation because I was not cooperating with the therapist, and he was demanding I cover all costs. So again we had to get attorneys involved. The spath had doctored up emails from me and was claiming I also refused to respond to his emails (even though I had the matching emails and responses, etc). My attorney told me that because of what the therapist was saying under subpoena, there would be no way I could avoid having to use a parenting coordinator. Now I have to pay 25% of the cost. I was told that the parenting coordinator offered after hour appointments since I cannot miss work. Turns out she does not. I was told I would never have to have joint sessions with the spath. Turns out I do, at the rate of twice a month. Even though I told the coordinator I am being treated for PTSD and my therapist has advised very clearly I need to keep as much distance as possible from the spath, the parenting coordinator said she didn’t care, she has a procedure to follow and if I don’t participate in the joint sessions she will report me to the court.

    My attorney called the coordinator and talked to her about how devastating this would be for me, but the coordinator told her the same thing, she didn’t care and she I would have to follow procedure.

    I don’t know what I am going to do. The spath has done everything in his power for 16 years to hurt me, has wiped me out financially more than once, harasses me non stop, is continuing to abuse my son, and now this? I feel completely lost and hopeless.

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    • Jan7 says:

      KarmaChameleon, I am so sorry that you are still living the sociopath court nightmare. They are never ending with their abuse & control. You are right about the spat wanting to “wipe me out financially more” this is what they love to do. So sick & twisted they are!!

      I would highly recommend that you open a fake email account then a fake Facebook page (so you can chat freely) and look at the Facebook page One moms battle. Cut & paste your post above on their Facebook page & you will get great answers as to how to deal with this situation.

      Also check out their website One moms battle & the site creates two books on divorcing a narcissist. You will see that they are an excellent resource site & wonderful support also.

      Donna Anderson here at love fraud wrote up a post not to long ago on One Moms battle so you can do a search up on the top right here at Lovefraud to read her post.

      Huge hugs to you.

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      • KarmaChameleon says:

        I was hoping someone here could tell me if they have experience using a parenting coordinator and if they were also forced to do joint sessions with the spath. It’s hard for me to accept that this parenting coordinator is supposedly a mental health professional, who yet once again, has no grasp of how damaging contact with the spath can be for their victim. My son’s therapist is just as clueless to the damage being done to my son. We were down to 18 months left before my son is 18 – now thanks to the therapist’s ridiculous suggestion of the parenting coordinator, the last 18 months could easily become the worst. I am so disgusted at the family court system and the incompetent therapists.

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        • jm_short says:


          Can your attorney file an emergency petition with the judge indicating that your PTSD condition warrants that you not be forced to meet with your ex. PTSD is a DISABILITY. Ask your attorney if they can file for an accommodation based on your disability. Be prepared to submit proof of this condition.

          Seems speaking directly to the coordinator will get you nowhere.

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          • KarmaChameleon says:

            I don’t know. I can ask. I’m seeing my therapist next week and maybe she can recommend something. My son’s therapist is the one who told both me and my attorney we should use this particular coordinator because they are ‘friends’ and she knows the coordinator offers after hour and weekend appointments and does not force joint sessions. Both pieces of information are wrong. My attorney believed her as well and advised me to go along with the out of court settlement of the motion filed against me by the spath. My attorney was very surprised that the information was incorrect, and was even more surprised that the coordinator did not care about my situation. The coordinator says she has no ide why my son’s therapist gave me the incorrect information. It seems to me I have some sort of legal basis to fight this since I agreed to something based on a lie, but so far my attorney is telling me I am basically screwed.

  2. becomingstrong says:

    Hello all,

    I have read some of the posts on this thread and I feel I have something to offer on the topic of custody battles. I have been in divorce litigation with a psychopathic husband for about a year and a half. We have five children ranging in age from elementary school to high school. At the beginning of litigation all the children lived with me. I pretty much single handedly raised our children. My husband’s job changed and he works/lived in a neighboring state and would see us a couple of weekends a month for years now (convenient for him). When I decided I filed for divorce on him he continued to act as though nothing had changed and he should be allowed to stay in the family home during his visits. I put an end to that pretty quickly and when I did he used the children to lobby for him, made visits completely horrific by coming unannounced (if I refused the visits the children would be crying at the door). In other words the visits were just more opportunity to abuse me. So I asked each one of my children with whom they wanted to live. Three said with their father. Now their father promised them they could live with him (of course at some undeterminable time in the future), but it was me standing in the way. These children became extremely resentful of me as they perceived me as standing in the way. I told them that their father hadn’t asked his lawyer, my lawyer or even me to have them. I told them that is the way it is done. Nothing, no facts, made any difference to my children. Meanwhile these unpleasant visits continued. He would take the children to his home and not return them for school, not returning them at the appointed hour, threaten me when I wouldn’t drop everything to run home to get the kids that he was dropping off at some unreasonable hour (2 p.m. on a Sunday), threaten me with the police etc… My youngest son, told everyone in his class he was going to live with his father, the school became so concerned that they called to tell me. I decided enough was enough and I was going to send the three children to live with him. I was going to make good on his promise. So the three children left months ago. Since then, no more horrific visits, no more inroads, no more using my children against me. I have opted out of this scenario all together. I am not going to fight for kids who won’t/unable to say to the judge, “I want to live with my mother” and “my father abuses my mother and I don’t want to have further involvement with him”. Maybe this is a tall order but to get away is major endeavor. I don’t want the abuse to be perpetuated through the children, thereby making monsters out of them, and a never-ending victim out of me. I have saved two of my children. By doing making good on his promise to have some of the children live with him and sending them to live with him, and ensured that the children who stayed with me will continue to. By giving every child the option he has no framework to launch a custody battle-thereby taking the wind out of his sale. If I hadn’t then all the children would be subjected to a custody battle and visitation. Now we don’t hear anything from him on this side. We are living a much calmer more peaceful existence. Just food for thought to those of you in similar circumstances.

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  3. becomingstrong says:

    In addition, I realize that being a mother, and in my case I was a housewife and that was my job, is part and parcel of your identity and women “give up their children” must by definition be bad mothers and thereby bad people. My own lawyer is a very seasoned attorney and looked askance at me. And I felt my lawyer was judging me. But I knew what had be done. To hell with people who didn’t walk in your shoes and who are going to judge you. You did need to do what you know is the right thing to do and let your ego go and societies expectations go. Fathers are as responsible for the children as mothers. But they get a pass when they actually abandon their children. And their mantra to the next woman “my ex-wife took the kids from me”. Let the kids go where they want to go. I didn’t abandon my children. They made a choice. I even had my one daughter, who was in elementary school, go to the lawyer’s office and write a letter in her hand that she wanted to go live with her father. I was thinking and hoping this formal exercise would make her change her mind, but it didn’t. She wrote the letter and skipped off to her father’s house. A man who never wanted her. Maybe one day she’ll have clarity or not. But I am not going to be the butt of her resentment that I didn’t let her go. Forget the money. It’s not worth it. I am selling the expensive house and I have sold the expensive car and I am reconciled and looking forward to the two bedroom apartment and the bus pass in order to live in peace and decency. All the private schools and trips abroad were not going to make my children respectful toward their mother in a house where they believed that I was holding them back from the parent they loved, their father.

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    • Terry101 says:


      this may work for you but it’s not assurance that he can’t still upset your life. A parent could find themselves continually drug into court over child support, medical expenses, etc. We’re never really free until the kids are on their own, and not completely then. They invite both parents to their college graduation, wedding, birth of a grandchild.

      Some may be left with no kids who remain and you find yourself completely alone, and it’s a hard reality to face, made worse when you get a notice to appear in court over child support.

      Even if our kids don’t respect us, they’ve been trained not to. I want to keep trying to fight that training. It hurts dealing with it, but letting them go to be further brainwashed hurts more. I would always be wondering if I would ever see them again, if they will grow up being taught to hate me. So as draining as it is, this is not an option for me or others.

      As much as it feels they don’t respect or love me, I still love them and want to protect them from 24/7 brainwashing even if it feels like I’m losing the battle at times. This is what I feel I need to do even if it causes so much pain. You must do what you feel needs done.

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      • becomingstrong says:

        Terry and no more wool,
        Look, if you spent thirteen years trying to get temp. Custody I imagine your child is almost an adult and capable of choosing. Sometimes we keep links to the spath b/c we think we have to for the sake of the child, etc. but is that really true? The heroin addict takes methadone to ease the withdrawal shakes, but isn’t the only cure cold turkey. I’ve seen in my own family my adult siblings drift back to my sociopathic father after my mothers death: they were divorced 15 years. Have some faith in your children. People often go to the parent they didn’t grow up with whether that parent was good or bad. No child wants to spend their time with a parent who chooses to be emotionally and financially depleted b/c that parent will not accept that sometimes the better part of valor is walking away. If you are dragged into court, even after staying away, agree to pay what is fair and right. Forget the visitation. Being alone, no children, should not be the driving force for accepting a cancer in your life. I personally let 3 of my children go live with the patent of their choice and after I sat and carefully thought about all the reasons that told me no, I realized the better decision was to let them follow their will and keep them from a parent who is legally entitled to them and with whom they wants to be. It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. What was remarkable was the alacrity with which they flew to him. As far trying to stave off the brainwashing, there is nothing you can do about that. The spath is going to do it whether you are around or not. Sometimes you need to let go of your end of the rope in tug of war. This is harder for women because society expects us to “fight for our children”.

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        • Terry101 says:


          There are a few holes in this. I guess the 13 years and children being gone is referring to yourself? Because for me it has not been 13 years and my children are not close to being adults unless we consider 10 or 12 as adult. That is the age a court will often allow a child to decide.

          You mentioned to agree to pay what’s fair. In a courtroom you do not have an option to agree and courts are not always fair. They can order amounts that are extreme and the person isn’t capable of paying. They can even order you to help pay even when they are an adult. They can make you pay college expenses even if you wouldn’t have before.

          You also mention that the kids can make a choice like they’re able to make a better choice and that we can’t stop brainwashing. But how can a child being brainwashed make right choices? They are impressionable and have their thinking marred by this and cannot make an informed choice.

          Whether society expects it isn’t the factor for many but I know I don’t want my children to grow up emotionally trained to hate me, to live a lie because they didn’t know the truth. And I don’t want to give that kind of control over to be repeatedly drug back in over support, getting hit with large medical bills because the ex took them out of network and said they had to. I don’t want to keep paying lawyers to prove their lies. And I want my kids to have a fighting chance to be taught better. I believe in God’s Word which includes train up a child in the way they should go. We can’t if the child is raised by a bitter and mentally ill person.

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          • becomingstrong says:

            Dear Terry,
            I was directing some of my comments to NO Wool who said, it took her 13 years in a custody battle. If she spent 13 years in a custody battle how old is the child. My guess is old enough to choose. You don’t have to follow my way. Nobody does. I’m just saying there is another way. I understand how courts work and generally if you don’t have a sociopathic judge they are going to order what’s reasonable. But agree, having been before a very bad judge myself, it can go the other way. Where we disagree is you believe you can battle the bad mouthing. I saw in my own family that I was on the loosing end and 3 of my children were going to believe the spath even if it contradicted what their eyes told them. They hated and resented me, the only parent they ever lived with and who ever did anything for them. They were actually becoming monsters. He told them and they believed that I was keeping them from him. Most people would just continue to shovel sand. It became so appearant to me that the best way was just to let them go. Of course now that he has them he is saying, “I dumped the kids in him.” I’m sure that is what he is telling them too. And now they hate me because I dumped them on him. What’s in it for me? The 2 children I have left live in peace. We all live in peace now. Home is much happier and he has no inroads into my home anymore and I don’t have children who despise me in my presence. We are still in litigation. The judge is seeing that he is a pathological liar and I’m just sitting back and enjoying the show. Your children are 10 and 12. They can voice an opinion. You are convinced that by battling the spath you will be helping your children make an informed choice but I find that very hard to believe. They can’t possibly understand the issues no matter how presented. The only thing I think is realistic is for you to show them that they have a choice and keep your door open. But not try and usher them through.

          • NoMoreWool says:

            Becomingstrong, I think you are confusing me with saveerin.

          • becomingstrong says:

            Dear No more wool,
            Sorry, it can be confusing to keep everyone’s aliases straight :).

          • NoMoreWool says:

            That’s OK, I don’t take anything personally that doesn’t happen in-person. :)

          • becomingstrong says:

            Dear Terry,

            I want to add to my above post. My Spath told our kids that he wanted them to come live with them and I was preventing it, which was false. But the 3 of my kids got so bad believing this lie that I packed their bags, arranged for and paid for their transportation (he lives in another state), took the 11 year old to my lawyer’s so it could be documented in a letter, in her own hand, that she wanted to go live with her father and that he had said she could and I sent them up. Of course he made no efforts to have them and to this day has not petitioned for a change of custody. But he goes into court as recently as a month ago and says I dumped the kids off on him. I have no doubt that when all is said and done my children who went up believe I dumped them. And there is not a damn thing I can do. But frankly now that all that chaos is out of my life because I personally removed it from my life, I don’t care what they say. My children here with me say everything is better. And it is. They do miss their siblings but they understand what happened and that I couldn’t prevent it (no cognitive dissonance with them). It could be that I end up owing him child support since he has 3 and I have 2 and mind you I do not work and have been a housewife for 15 years. And you know what so be it. I am going to live my life in peace surrounded by people who love me and people who deal in the truth. I will move from a mansion to an apartment. I have already sold one fancy car in this process and can’t wait to sell my other one. My crystal and china and chandeliers etc…, are for sale because they are not important and I don’t want to be tied to a lifestyle that has essentially hemmed me in-I am shedding all that-and so be it. I have shed so much in the last year, children, furniture, plans for the future, and the future it is becoming so big and bright I can’t wait. Every new day is becoming this future. That light at the end of the tunnel is now right in front of me and I am making it happen, not the judge, not him, not kids who don’t appreciate me, me. You have the key to your own jail cell. And when you decide to cut loose your spath and all the strings you’ll find out how much you actually have to offer your children that doesn’t involve courtrooms, lawyers, and unhappiness. But there has to be a willingness on both sides, meaning you and your children, to cut the spath out. And if you think they are too young to make that choice and you think your current path of chaos and misery is how you are going to make them see the light, then you have stronger children than I do and you are wiser than I am. The way I see it is water finds its own level. My second grader who is with me told me her twin sister left to go be with their dad because he buys more toys. I gave her the choice of going up too and she said no. One child could be bought and one child couldn’t-same age same gender. They are both where they need to be and want to be. I gave my oldest the same choice and he is a little different because college is around the corner and I told him that if she went with her father he in the end was going to have much more money than I would and would be able to afford her fancier schools and more opportunities. He chose to stay with me. The other 3 fell hook, line and sinker for cheap Chinese electronic devices, iPads, cell phones, and the opportunity to live in an unsupervised environment, i.e.: no rules, no bedtime, no monitoring of friends, endless allowances…

          • Terry101 says:


            I’m just going to have to state again that I disagree and leave it there. My kids are not 10 and 12. I had meant they are closer to 10 and 12 and that’s usually about the age courts would let them decide. And my oldest isn’t mentally capable of making such a decision even then as she is mentally handicapped.

            I am convinced just not in the way you believe. I’m convinced if the ex had them, the kids are going to be hurt, not just emotionally. I just prefer to protect them from harm at all cost. But I don’t have any cars or crystal or anything to fight court indefinitely or pay any support that would be ordered, and the local courts are not fair on support here.

            The ex does the same here. They set no rules and buy everything they want. My oldest is easy to draw in with electronics. It causes problems, especially just after they return. But they still know this is home. Rules here and none there messes up their minds. But they will know who really stood by them later in life no matter how hard the struggle might be now.

            Kids don’t know what is good for them. For me it comes down to they’re my kids, I love them and I won’t let them suffer harm because they are impressionable. So I keep fighting the best I can.

    • NoMoreWool says:

      Each situation is different and giving up one’s children is not a decision made lightly. In my case, just as I suspected, once the SP no longer had me to use as a target, he began abusing the children. He was given enough rope to hang himself, and eventually abused the children in front of third party witnesses who were willing to testify in court.

      I hope your children eventually see their father for what he is and you are able to have a relationship again.

      Best of luck to you!

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  4. saveerin3338 says:

    So I won temporary custody after 13 years of his covert abuse but then he walked into court claiming I was a neglectful mother and my daughter was starved for my attention on top of many other lies and all of the sudden his blatant abuse was no longer the issue. I would say this is unbelievable but unfortunately I have dealt w this for 14 years now so I never expected to win. Then he convinced my daughter she would be bullied if she switched schools along w other manipulate tactics so my daughter changed her mind. I’m negative $5000 LAWYERS FEES AND IM ORDERED TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT to my abuser. I pray God kill him and if not him me. I don’t want to deal with this another day. I would rather be dead. 14 years of abuse. Now I have to drop out of college and I cannot afford to pay my bills. fml

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