Editor’s Note: Resource Perspectives features articles written by members of Lovefraud’s Professional Resources Guide.
Questions to ask yourself when you want to go after a sociopath
By Fred Dunsing, Attorney at Law
I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist or a counselor. I’m a lawyer. Therefore, I’m wholly unqualified to write about sociopaths and the specifics of their mental health disorder.
I do, however, understand the definition of sociopath and generally understand what constitutes sociopathic behavior. I have seen many of these individuals during my years in practice as a family law attorney, and I can say that most of the sociopaths I have come in contact with have been within the context of fraudulent relationships. Most of these individuals have been men (although I must admit that I represent mainly women in my practice).
These individuals have been textbook cases. Men who look for recently single and/or otherwise vulnerable women that have what they need – usually money, credit, sex, or the ability to provide them with children. Generally, their whole lives are lies. Their education, military service, jobs, assets, friends, and even marital status are fabricated.
What has struck me in these cases is that these individuals often share other characteristics. They are often controlling. They are usually supreme narcissists. They have such an inflated and unrealistic view of their own intelligence and abilities that they think they are smarter than everyone else – police, lawyers, judges, and especially the women they victimize. This attitude is always their downfall.
Of the cases I have taken to trial involving these personality types, these individuals have not only always lost, but have always lost in a big way. They lose because of their utterly unjustified opinion of themselves, and of their abilities to con other people. They lose when they finally pick the wrong person who won’t just go away. Someone finally takes them “to the mat” all the way through the legal process. In the context of outright fraud or theft, that may mean the police and the local district attorney. In the context of a child custody or divorce case, that may mean taking it all the way through a civil trial.
These people are predators, but in their minds, they’ve done nothing wrong. They don’t believe a case will ever go to trial because they will outsmart or frustrate any court or lawyer and at the very least, they will convince the victim to drop the case – it’s just another con to them.
But the end of the road for these people is usually when they victimize a strong or determined person. The cases that typically are the most successful are those that involve women who were willing work countless hours to research and document the lies and the damage long before going to see a lawyer. It becomes a mission with them. And even after a lawyer explains the weaknesses of the legal system, these victims all have a common characteristic – they are not going to be victimized and they going to make sure that the sociopath never does it again to anyone else.
Now, this is often easier said than done. In most cases, it is expensive. The cost of the necessary discovery and litigation can be incredibly high. Moreover, the impact on the victim’s personal life during the period of litigation can be devastating.
In my experience, a person who is contemplating taking a sociopath “to the mat” needs to answer the following questions: 1) Do I have the financial resources to pursue this course of action? 2) Am I willing to put my family through the process? 3) What are my goals? Am I seeking some measure of justice? Am I doing this for my family? Am I doing this to teach the sociopath a lesson? Am I doing this for myself?
There is an old adage that most everyone has heard, “you can spell principle two ways – with an ‘al’ and with an ‘le.’” It’s OK to spell it with an “le.” You are entitled to seek justice. You are entitled to stand on your principles. You just have to understand that in our legal system, it usually costs you money (principal spelled with an “al”). You also have to understand that in some instances, judgments against sociopaths may not worth the paper they are written on – particularly if the assets taken have already been squandered and the damage has already been done. You can’t collect on judgments if you can’t find the assets to execute on.
It is, however, an entirely a different situation when the stakes are not just missing property or ruined credit, but instead are whether helpless children will be exposed to a sociopath or even worse, raised by one.