By Sandra L. Brown, MA
Leaving a pathological is never easy—they aren’t wired to allow for easy separation and disengagement. What they value most is drama, trauma, and the perpetuation of misery at any cost. High on their entertainment list is any legal activity—especially divorces, separations, and custody battles. Pathologicals get bored easily and have a high need for entertainment. They are high-excitement seekers and have low impulse control. This all equals great legal combativeness coupled with great enjoyment of the process.
Pathologicals are highly litigious, meaning they LOVE to sue and go to court. They are entertained by the drama of the court scene and love anything associated with being the victim in a legal process. Therefore, they are different than normal people in that they will keep this process going as long as necessary. They will even spend more money than they will ever recover JUST to be in court, JUST to be heard, and JUST so you won’t win.
There is no rationale when it comes to why they find court so enthralling. It’s almost like “legal malingering.” Malingering is a psychological disorder that means a person remains symptomatic because they get something out of it that we refer to as a “secondary gain.” So it is true with the pathological in court—67 times to court for one case is not unheard of.
But the bottom line for you is that court is often traumatizing. Facing him can bring on flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares and anxiety. The faces he makes, his posturing and his stares can often leave you highly ineffective on the witness stand. Or you are unable to think in the courtroom in order to give your attorney correct input.
Some women are followed by the pathological after court. He may stalk her in his car or call her cell phone, belittling her about the court proceedings. Taunting her before the court date can bring a woman’s functioning level to an all-time low. She may miss work and, as a result, lose pay. She may have to pay and repay court fees as he switches dates around just to make a show of power.
Women who already have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), other chronic stress conditions, or autoimmune disorders like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or lupus, can end up bed-bound from the stress of the court drama and him. Since pathologicals love your debilitation, they are likely to stretch out the process by asking for more depositions, postponing court dates, adding more needed appearances, or even refusing a settled offer that is everything they asked for—anything to create more stress and havoc for you. Women will often do ANYTHING to avoid this kind of exposure to further abuse.
Since the pathological is rarely acknowledged for what he is, the court is not likely to identify his manipulative behaviors and so his requests are granted. You are tormented with more and more unproductive court appearances as he acts like the perpetual victim.
A woman can get PTSD-like symptoms just from how she’s treated in court or in depositions. The criminal court is known for favoring criminals, so anyone who is not criminal often finds the process abusive and traumatizing. A woman will often give away her rights, property, and money just to avoid him and court all together. She and her children are then exposed to poverty, marginal employment and a reduced quality of life ALL because she wants to avoid being traumatized by him and an unbalanced court system.
I have said for many years that the universe is strangely tilted to the benefit of the pathological. They get away with more dirty deeds, especially in court, than any normal person would ever get away with. For this reason, women come to know that their chances in court with a pathological, who is so dramatic, convincing, and unnerved by the process, is nil.
Women have had very ineffective means for balancing the scales of Her-vs-The Psychopath in family court. That’s because few women know about one VERY effective strategy that helps her regain her court composure—using a PTSD diagnosis to receive special accommodations during court proceedings.
As we have constantly mentioned, many of the women who come through our program have PTSD that was acquired during the pathological relationship or was made worse by the relationship. PTSD is a trauma disorder—meaning you were traumatized in some way, which is how you acquired it.
PTSD symptoms can last for short or long periods of time and are almost always increased by stress—such as stress by being in court or stress created by his behavior while in court. These types of recurring symptoms can negatively impact your effectiveness in court and can require special accommodations so you are able to function during court. Some of these special accommodations include:
- Having the woman speak over a speaker phone in another room so she doesn’t have to face him.
- Not having him in the courtroom.
- Having him detained so she can leave early from the courtroom.
- Calling in to the courtroom from home to avoid having to attend the hearing in person.
- If she has to attend—having a disability advocate present with her.
- Having him not be allowed to speak directly to her when walking past him from the courtroom.
All of these special accommodations can greatly ease the stress normally associated with court, but are not granted unless a special ADA (American with Disabilities Act http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm) accommodation is granted.
Accommodations can also be made for:
- Emotional triggering caused by discussing the situation
- Memory recall problems
- Concentration problems
- Flexibility with deadlines because of amnesic symptoms or recurring trauma when having to testify in front of him
- Emergency hearing to enforce court orders
- Rehabilitative alimony for treatment of PTSD for you or your children
PTSD is the disorder most associated with pathological love relationships. A diagnosis of this can help women acquire accommodations that are associated with the ADA accommodations offered. You simply have to have a diagnosis that requires special accommodations in order for you to function. (In our article, “PTSD as Trauma Disorder—NOT Psychiatric Illness,” we discussed the differences between mental illnesses and emotional, trauma-based disorders such as PTSD.)
http://legalabusesyndrome.com/ provides information about writing your PTSD Accommodations Request Report for the court. This is a HUGE breakthrough for women because once you have received ADA accommodations, the judges and attorneys MUST adhere to protocols developed for ADA which are federally based and help accommodate your needs in order to function in court. Protocols not followed are prosecutable, making the courts highly attentive to meeting federal protocols. This could also apply to your children if they have PTSD, and could hopefully impact how they are to be treated in court and how their needs must be met.
Before we get a FLOOD of letters and emails about this, here is what you need to know:
- You must legitimately have PTSD. If you have already been diagnosed with PTSD, you have already jumped one hurdle.
- If you need to be diagnosed, you must be evaluated by a licensed professional such as a mental health professional or a psychiatrist.
- Once you are diagnosed, you will need to draft your PTSD Accommodations Report. This is a time-consuming and lengthy report of approximately 10-15 pages. It is a highly specialized report. It is unlikely that your doctor or health care professional will construct something of this nature as it addresses specific areas to meet the criteria for ADA. (There are ADA Advocates, professionals, who can help with this but, of course, they charge for this report; however, we believe that what the report renders to you is highly worth the investment.)
- This is NOT the same thing as being declared “disabled,” and has nothing to do with physical or mental disability or acquiring disability payments.
- PTSD, if diagnosed, does become part of one’s medical and/or psychological record.
We believe that these Accommodations Reports are the beginning of leveling the playing field when it comes to being in court with pathologicals. We also believe that children who are diagnosed with PTSD and who have acquired it from living with the pathological may have a far more arguable case about custody when courts try to mandate visitation with the very one who caused PTSD.
(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)