Sociopaths, Assessments, and Court—What’s the Point?

Last week in Hard to See a Psychopath, I dedicated my post to seeing psychopaths/sociopaths more clearly. I talked about the need for assessments—meaning more training for more clinicians—as a place to start in our quest to “make things better.”

But what’s next? Let’s say you’re in the family court system. Does an assessment make a difference? Why start there? I thought hard about this all week. Because for the past decade or two, I’ve lived in a space where I know that my ex is hurting people, but I’ve been silenced or belittled or ignored in most arenas when I try to talk about it.

And I’ve imagined, many times, that if people just knew the truth, it would make a difference.

This week I started asking myself: would it?

Would it make a difference if my ex was recognized as a sociopath?

The Sociopath Rules the Court

There are stats on how much more likely sociopaths are to get off their charges if caught committing any crime, and the numbers are pretty staggering. Like 80% more likely.

Are there stats on how much more likely a sociopath is to earn full custody of his or her children in the family courts? Is it even possible to get those numbers?

Can we assume that if a sociopath is more likely to convince a judge or magistrate of his or her innocence in a case of murder that a sociopath might also be more likely to convince them of their parenting capabilities?


And so let’s say that we present the judge or magistrate with the results of a sociopathic assessment.

What are they going to do with this information?

In a corrupt or incompetent system, they can do whatever they want.

They can ignore you. Dismiss the results. Laugh. Sneer.

You might be ridiculed. Someone could shout at you. Someone present could order another member of their “friend” group to conduct an evaluation—on you. The results of this evaluation could bring on a lifetime of damage and heartache.

The sociopathic assessment might not ever even happen. Or matter if it does.

So why—I have to ask myself—why am I saying that we should start making change by demanding that clinicians get better about identifying sociopaths?

I think it’s still important—that it makes a difference. For example, if you’re trying to succeed in family therapy, it helps if your therapist isn’t fooled by a sociopath. Or if you’re dealing with one and go to a therapist for answers, it helps if they can see what you’re dealing with.

But if you’re in the court system, what difference does it make?

The small family courts around the country (and world) vary so wildly from each other that it’s hard to state clearly whether better-trained clinicians around sociopathy would change case outcomes or not.

But how many people are suffering the results of poorly decided cases around the world each day? How many children?

How many of these cases involve identified or unidentified sociopaths?

How many systems?

I don’t know these answers. But I’d love to have a conversation.