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Global Guide to Divorce
Jack Jack the Cat

Co-Parenting with a Sociopath

Sociopath is also called antisocial personality disorder and is one of the most difficult people to have as a co-parent. New research has indicated that there can be a genetic link to having antisocial personality disorder and it sometimes runs in families. Sociopaths are highly represented in the prison populations. People with antisocial personality disorder can be impulsive and reckless. Many are highly intelligent and choose occupations where they have power, such as politicians, police, clergy, trial attorneys, and surgeons.

Sociopaths lack empathy and compassion for others, yet seem (pretending) to care about them. Their good works are for show and glory only. They blame others and do not see the need to change themselves, so are not prone to seek therapy. People with antisocial personality disorder manipulate more vulnerable people, such as their children. They have a sense of entitlement and use others to obtain what they feel is due to them out of life.

They blame others and are prime candidates for committing parental alienation. Sociopaths can explode with rage which frightens kids, or the youngsters shut down to avoid being a trigger for this fury. Life is not stable when a parent’s moods are so labile. This is emotional abuse. Sociopaths can be charming and may have swayed the court into granting ample shared time. Document everything, including what the children say, and your e-mail interactions. Their charisma may influence people in your children’s lives, such as teachers, who may support this enchanting parent.

They have no scruples and will try to corrupt their kids into doing dangerous or illegal activities.   One sociopath showed hardcore internet pornography to his young sons, acting as if this is normal. He threatened them not to tell their mother, or it would be their fault if the mum then broke up the family. The younger son accidently let slip what their father had recently shown them. The mum called the father who denied it, but she said that she was starting a formal investigation. He left her a day later. Her divorce solicitor asked why he couldn’t have done “another hobby, like bowling with the kids.”

Sociopaths do not have respect for life and may mistreat or torture animals. They may expose children to this atrocity. The key is clear communication with your children about what behaviour and ethics are acceptable and what is not. If they do not want to confide in you, have someone else available, if they are not in therapy.

Never let the sociopath into your home for any reason. If you are in the marital house, make sure all locks, alarm and garage codes have been changed. Do not give out any personal information about yourself to this other parent. Make it clear to the children that anything at all about you or your shared life with them, is off limits to your ex. They can discuss their school, friends and activities, but not you.

Give your children at least daily hugs and praise. Inform them how much you appreciate them and their achievements because they may not be hearing this from the other parent. I made a big point of volunteering and having my sons do so as well to offset negatives from their father. They learned from an early age to have compassion and give back to animals and the community.

If you are told that your child is not respecting other children and is extremely cruel, this is a red flag. Since there is a genetic component to antisocial personality disorder, have him evaluated by an experienced   psychiatrist or psychologist in this area. A youngster may be diagnosed with “conduct disorder” and can be helped with therapy. This condition can be a precursor for antisocial personality disorder and early intervention can prevent it from becoming full blown. In therapy, specific parameters for behaviour are set with certain consequences. Conduct disorder is often diagnosed with juvenile delinquents and is not the same as a little acting out that comes with divorce.

If you or the children are in danger, seek help immediately. Talk to your solicitor, the police or local abuse shelter. Do not talk to your ex directly, but rather send business-like e-mails. Better to use a third party intermediary for communication, such as a mediator. Visitation can take place at a Contact Centre and if not supervised, have the drop off and pick up away from your home. The main points with co-parenting with sociopaths is to limit your contact and monitor the children’s well-being.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine