When I was a child, my family called me “the party police”. I was that kid who would march around the house telling all the guests at the party the rules of the house. If someone would break a rule, little 6 year old cappuccino queen would have a meltdown. Growing up, I always felt comfort knowing that I lived in a country with strong morals which were upheld by a fair justice system. I didn’t drink underage, I didn’t ever smoke, and I never even thought about doing drugs. I was even the kind of kid who would return the candy bar if I walked out of the store without paying for it – by accident. I was a good girl and I was proud of it.
Luc came into my life and completely destroyed my belief in law and order. One of the most painful lessons that I had to learn throughout my court battle with Luc was that psychopaths don’t play by normal rules. This is true in their lives and it is certainly the case in the courtroom. The most disturbing part about this was that Luc would get away with many of his lies because it would come down to my word against his. He knew how to play the game and what he could get away with. It was hard for me, at first, to anticipate his next move and prepare myself for the chaos. Laws are not always enforced and true criminals are experts at figuring out which laws they can break and which are so hard to prove that no prosecutor will bother taking the case.
About six months after leaving Luc, I realized that I needed to find a professional who could explain to me what was happening. I couldn’t understand how someone like this was walking free and how I ended up with THIS man as the father of my son. Why didn’t I see how incredibly insane he is? How did his behavior continue to escape our justice system? I also realized that it was important to keep my head on straight because I was in for a long fight.
After a couple of sessions, my therapist diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As soon as he said it, I laughed and said, “Oh come on doctor – PTSD is like something that men/women have when they come back from war.” The doctor then explained that PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. He also explained that the court system was essentially re-traumatizing me and that people like Luc tended to feed off of the drama of the court room and the terror they could cause by litigating.
After doing some research on PTSD, I am fully willing to own the label. I would argue that anyone with normal emotions who gets tangled up with a psychopath is bound to end up with a healthy dose of PTSD. I wish I could tell you that I have recovered. Well, I haven’t. I still have nightmares and sometimes I still get panicked about what Luc has done or what he is capable of doing next.
Something that has helped, however, is the knowledge I have gained in the past year. I have learned some great ways to protect myself against Luc. I hope to be able to arm my readers with a little bit of the knowledge I have learned (mostly the hard way). Here are some of the things I have learned so far throughout my custody battle with Luc.
1) Keep your cool: Luc always tried to make me look like the crazy one. He would try hard to pretend he was the victim to get sympathy from anyone who was stupid enough to give it to him. (especially his lawyer whom he convinced to work pro bono) Luc would also say things with the sole intent to get a rise out of you. Beware – the judge is always watching you. I had to actively practice breathing while Luc was on the stand because I knew that I was being watched the entire time. I remember actually drawing blood from pinching myself so hard after Luc sat on the stand and lied to the judge saying I had an STD. One of the most important things a judge looks for is the mature parent. Don’t let him make you lose your cool.
2) Document everything: Luc lied about everything. In the moment, his lie would sometimes appear to be plausible but his common problem was that he couldn’t keep track of all of his lies. Insist on getting copies of court testimony because a person like this will swear to something under oath and then completely pretend as if he never said it. Having proof will help you down the road. Don’t just document court records – document any communication you have with him (verbal and written). One of the most annoying things about family law is that there is a lot of he said/she said. Having proof helps to keep some of the lies out of the court record.
3) Be your own advocate: I am not suggesting not getting a lawyer. GET A LAWYER. Understand, however, that your lawyer doesn’t know your ex. Family lawyers are used to seeing scored men and women come into their offices complaining about how crazy their ex is. Don’t get frustrated when you have to explain to them over and over again that you are not dealing with a normal rational player. It took me nearly a year (and after firing two lawyers) to finally get my lawyers to understand. Remember, you are just a client to them. This is YOUR life and YOUR child so it makes sense for you to fight with the most passion. I had to practice patience with my lawyers because eventually they were able to see what I was talking about when they witnessed Luc’s pathology for themselves.
4) It’s a marathon: There are many small battles in a custody trial. You might not win all of them (I certainly didn’t feel like I did), but you need to pace yourself. One of the hardest things to deal with was the court dates constantly being continued. It took exactly a full year after I filed for custody to get a final order in place. (Note: Our custody trial was four months ago.)
Justice as I knew it is dead. The small piece of little girl cappuccino queen I have left inside of me is storming around and throwing a huge fit. She is screaming and crying and stomping her feet. Grown up cappuccino queen, however, is constantly thinking of ways to protect her son while trying to quiet the little girl inside who is throwing a royal tantrum over the death of justice.