Editor’s note: The following post was written by the Lovefraud reader “Adelade.” Names have been changed.
One of the most important undertaking in divorcing from a sociopath is to remain, at all times, factual during legal proceedings.
When I first entered my attorney’s office to tell her why I wanted a divorce, I was hysterical and incomprehensible. This was immediately after I had been arrested for Domestic Violence, and I was in a state of sheer panic and anxiety that I had never believed possible. I didn’t unload my “feelings” so much as the ugly facts about my action — I had discovered that Kerby had not only been living a double-life since before we ever even met, but that his interests were so repellant that I was unable to process them. This was well before I discovered the forgeries and truths of how 300K vanished in 2 ½ years.
Remaining emotionally detached during legal proceedings is no simple task, especially when we’re divorcing from a sociopath. If there are children in common, anxiety, stress, and despair can be compounded to the point where we’re unable to do anything better than obsess about what the spath did, and continues to do. This becomes all-consuming and affects our employment positions, our personal interactions, and family dynamics.
Courts and Attorneys are not interested in how you “feel”
First and foremost, we must realize, understand, and accept this fact: attorneys are not counseling therapists. The Law deals in facts only, and an attorney is not interested in how their client “feels.” This is harsh and seems unreasonable, but it’s vital to understand that it is 100% true. Courts are not interested in how litigants “feel,” either. As harsh as it may sound, the Law cannot afford to engage in the emotional aspects of any given matter — it simply can’t. So, having made this clear, anyone who is intending on divorcing from a sociopath should, without fail and across the board, seek strong counseling therapy with someone that “gets it” about what they experienced. The counselor will hear, identify, and assist in the emotional carnage and help the client move towards recovery. The attorney requires facts, only.
Get tested for STDs
If the spath had one or many affairs, get tested for STDs immediately, prior to filing your divorce. Every State (to my knowledge) provides punitive damages to be awarded for a spouse who received a STD from their philandering husband or wife. In some States, these damages cannot be bankrupted and can be very harsh. Additionally, collect all medical information that may be pertinent to your case with regard to disability and medical conditions.
Keep emotions out of your fact finding
Collecting information about the divorce can be a frustrating experience — be prepared for this and separate the emotion from the processes. Gathering financial documentation, joint account information, personal credit reports, vital documentation (marriage certificates, etc.), and any physical evidence of malfeasance requires a very cool head. We cannot accomplish these tasks if we are running hot on emotion. We can become hysterical when a banking representative responds that we must pay $1 per page for transaction records, or when someone is short with us, or even if someone is kind to us. Get that emotion out of your system before making phone calls or walking into offices.
When the complaint is drafted for the divorce action, this document speaks specifically about why you are seeking a legal divorce, and what you will present to support this matter. Name-calling, insulting, and bashing are not allowed, although the spath’s attorney will likely resort to these tactics. These tactics may be abominable, but they have a purpose: to place the plaintiff on the defensive.
As an example, Kerby’s response to my complaint was that I was obese, lazy, and a “failed artist.” These words were intended to incite outrage and a strong emotional response. Because I was involved in counseling therapy, I was able to process this effort for what it was, and remain detached from the emotional outrage in counter-responses. This is not to say that these claims didn’t infuriate me, because the most certainly did! But, that outrage was addressed in counseling and not on the phone with my attorney.
Read over the complaint draft and make absolute certain that your attorney presents facts, only. No insults, no “feelings,” and no conjecture: facts, only. If the defendant (soon-to-be-ex) has failed to pay utilities, then make this clear without accusations or emotional rants and substantiate this claim with documentation. Make certain that your complaint says only what needs to be said, and nothing more. Make certain that all facts are accurate: dates, names, financial information, etc., all must be 100% accurate and supported with evidence.
Maintain control at all times in court
In the courtroom during hearings, there will be intense anxiety. It is unavoidable. Donna suggested that I express and release my anxiety, anger, rage, disappointment, despair, and grief BEFORE appearing in court in any healthy way that I was able to. This advice was priceless. Releasing the emotion prior to appearances prevents the emotions from spilling out in the courtroom. If necessary, speak to your physician about your anxiety and definitely keep your counseling therapist in the loop, at all times.
Courtroom outbursts are simply not allowed. Any emotional display, such as, “He’s LYING!” or, “She’s CRAZY!” will not, under any circumstances, win any points for you. Even rolling your eyes, sighing, or shaking your head in disgust is not going to do you any service. Quiet, reserved dignity is essential. Let the spath slip a cog and rant in the courtroom, but you are in control of your behaviors and you are not obligated to react to lies — you have provided your attorney with the necessary documentation to prove your case, and that’s it.
Tell your attorney everything in advance so there are no surprises in court
Let your attorney do the talking, always, and make sure that you are both on the same proverbial page. Tell your attorney if there are issues that you do not want brought up and, specifically, why. He/she will be prepared to counter any sneak-attacks by the spath’s attorney. If there are issues of custody/visitation before the court, remain calm and factual. Accusations of bad parenting, etc., are not going to be entertained by the court. Only facts need be presented, and you will be keeping a factual log throughout these processes that will only contain dates, times, actions, and results. No emotional observations or accusations are allowed — save the emotion for your counseling sessions.
Don’t discuss details with children or outsiders
If your legal matter involves children in common, keep the children out of all adult matters. I cannot stress this strongly enough. DISALLOW any discussion of what the other parent is, has done, is doing, or any child support discussions. You are not obligated to explain your actions to your children and a simple, “I’m not discussing these matters with you. They are between your mother/father and me, and regardless of our differences, we both still love you.” A spath parent in a divorce/custody/visitation matter is going to do everything within their power to force innocent children to choose sides. If you respond to your child’s demands to “know” everything, you’ll only be playing the same vicious games that the spath is playing, and this will only further damage the children. Counseling sessions for the children may be a very good option, as well.
Although we are compelled to do this, it is a personal imperative that we not discuss our divorce proceedings with others except our closest friends, family, and/or counseling therapist. Divorcing a sociopath is unlike any other drama/trauma that we’re equipped to process and “outsiders” will quickly either tire of our emotional state, or they’ll eagerly drink up the drama/trauma for their own purposes. Do not discuss details of your case with anyone other than your attorney and counselor. Well-meaning people will open their mouths at the most inopportune times to bring up your dirty laundry as a part of the human condition.
Know in advance what outcomes are possible
Finally, remember that you aren’t the first person to experience this and, sadly, you will not be the last. The Laws in most States in the U.S. maintain “no fault” divorce which means that nobody is held to be “at fault” for the collapse of a contract of marriage. Court involves “equitable distribution,” only, and it is imperative that you understand that you’re not going to be awarded punitive damages because he/she has slept with half of the town’s population, defrauded you of your personal finances, or any other misdeed or misconduct.
Nobody “wins” any divorce/custody/visitation matter except the representing attorneys. Be prepared for this fact and make sure that your attorney explains this to you, in detail. It is a very rare event that one party walks away with the whole kielbasa and the other party is left destitute when assets, incomes, and personal property are “distributed equitably.” It may not be “fair,” but it is a fact that will not be changed unless and until “No Fault Divorce” is either amended, or repealed.
The ultimate “win” will be to keep your self-respect in tact
Cool heads prevail in courtrooms, and it’s very easy to get caught up in the drama/trauma of it all. Spaths create such widespread carnage that we want everyone to understand and appreciate what was done to us. Divorce court is not the venue to accomplish this task, if there even is one that’s appropriate outside of counseling sessions and this blog site. Separating the emotion from facts will not only assist your attorney in preparing your case, but you will likely be amazed that your worst fears don’t manifest inside the courtroom after all is said and done. Keeping the emotion out of your legal matters will allow you to process the events and recover more quickly and with a sense of accomplishment, regardless of how your matter is settled.