The labels “psychopath” and “sociopath” get thrown around quite easily, but not many people understand the clinical definition of these terms, nor the difference between them. Psychopathy and sociopathy are a set of behaviors that fall under the category known as “antisocial personality disorder” (ASPD). While clinicians are careful about applying either label to a person diagnosed with ASPD, both psychopaths and sociopaths have a little to no sense of right and wrong, along with the inability to feel empathy for others. The main difference between the two is that psychopaths seem to have no conscience, while sociopaths do have a conscience, but still can't resist the urge to do something wrong or selfish. Both types of individuals are prone to acts such as lying and stealing, with heightened ability to charm and manipulate others. While they tend to have poor impulse control, the vast majority of psychopaths and sociopaths are not violent.
These people are interesting to watch on TV or in movies, but they're not fun to live with or be married to, and they are especially challenging to deal with as a co-parent. In truth, psychopaths and sociopaths are so selfish that it may seem impossible for them to be parents in any sense of the word. The courts, however, will not completely override a parent's custodial rights except in the most extreme cases, so former partners of individuals with ASPD are pretty much stuck having to co-parent with their exes in some form or another.
If you are one of these long-suffering parents, it's imperative to keep your relationship as “professional” as possible. Talking through your attorneys is highly recommended, as well as communicating in writing. Face-to-face, or even phone communications are generally a bad idea, because individuals with ASPD are very good at manipulating a situation to their advantage. They are experts at getting under your skin and making you lose control, even over simple issues such as when you can come to pick up the kids. Although it's time-consuming and inconvenient, it's in everyone's best interests for schedules and agreements to be put in writing, and to follow the terms of your court order to the letter. This means sticking to the schedule each and every time, regardless of what the other parent does, and documenting your visits or lack thereof.
Accurate, concrete documentation through emails, police reports, etc., is especially important since psychopaths and sociopaths have a tendency to make false accusations in court. It's also important to keep in constant communication with your attorney, who can advise you on the available legal options for protecting your parental rights. While an attorney cannot give you psychological counseling (which is highly recommended), he or she can help you apply for enforcement relief from the courts, and file for any modifications to your order to help make the situation more manageable. For more information on your co-parenting rights in New Jersey, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.
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