For those who have been married to a sociopath, the concept of divorce can feel insurmountable. After all, if the sociopathic tendencies crept into the marriage, why would they cease during a divorce?
Divorce Attorney John Griffith explains, “If you have a sociopath for a spouse, the last thing he or she will want is losing control of you via divorce. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to prepare and understand the situation more fully.”
What’s the Difference Between a Sociopath and a Psychopath?
Though experts don’t always agree on the use of the terms sociopath and psychopath, both of these conditions fall under the same category, called antisocial personality disorder, set out by the DSM-5. This book, also known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is the resource used by the American Psychiatric Association to classify and diagnose mental problems.
DSM-5 identifies ten different types of personality disorders. The term “personality disorder” is specifically defined as “a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.”
Sociopathy falls under their “Cluster B” category (known as the dramatic, emotional, erratic cluster) and more generally falls under antisocial personality disorder. Though this broad term includes both psychopaths and sociopaths, it has the characteristic of “disregarding or violating the rights of others.” Neither sociopaths nor psychopaths have regard for the law or social norms and rarely feel guilt or remorse.
Sociopaths vs. Psychopaths
There are key differences between sociopaths and psychopaths. In laymen’s terms, a sociopath can be considered “hot-headed,” while a psychopath is more “cool and calculating.” Sociopaths often act erratically and are more prone to violence than their psychopathic counterparts. Sociopaths typically have consciences, albeit weak ones, where psychopaths may lack them altogether.
Finally, psychopaths are often able to successfully mimic common human behavior, including emotions, and can be described as charming or charismatic. For the impulsive sociopath, however, there is usually no pretense in behavior; he or she will make no qualms about the fact that they’re only interested in their own wellbeing.
How to Divorce a Sociopath
For those wanting to divorce a sociopathic spouse, here are some tips on what to expect when divorcing a sociopath and how to prepare for a more successful outcome:
- Try to discern whether the spouse truly has a personality disorder. If so, this will help explain why he or she acts irrationally during court proceedings.
- Sociopaths aren’t interested in being “fair and rational,” so it should be expected that this type of tactic will usually be futile in negotiations.
- Seek counseling. Especially for those with children involved in the divorce process, this is vital for everyone’s mental health.
- Be prepared for lies and manipulation. For most sociopaths, honesty is no virtue, and the bottom line is their own self-interests.
- Keep track of all correspondence, written or verbal. Sociopaths may use intimidation or threats to get their way. Keeping proof of this will help in court. California requires consent for a person’s conversation to be recorded.
- Do not modify court orders. For example, for visitation or child support rights, it’s best for each party to stick to the agreement. Otherwise, a sociopath may twist the situation to best suit his or her case and can result in vast injustices to the other party.
- Stay calm. While this much easier said than done, it will help in the long run to not allow a sociopath to elicit an emotional response from others.
- Seek experienced professional help. It’s best to seek divorce attorneys who have experience in dealing with mental disorders. They can provide expert knowledge and tactics for a case involving a sociopath.
If you’re in the Carlsbad area and are considering divorcing a spouse with a personality disorder, schedule a free consultation with John Griffith or one of his outstanding team members at Griffith, Young, and Lass.
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