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Divorcing a Narcissist

We’ve all heard the term, “narcissist” in general speech, but narcissistic personality disorder is also a bona-fide psychiatric diagnosis contained in the DSM-Manual 5. Narcissistic personality disorder is, among other things, characterized by a grandiose sense of self-importance, volatile relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. If you search for the term “narcissism” online, you will find thousands of articles, blogs, and books written by people who are divorcing a narcissist, or attempting to co-parent with a narcissist.

How is divorcing a narcissist different than anyone else?

Narcissists tend to think they do not have to play by the rules- they think they are special, so rules only apply to ‘normal’ people. Expect to engage in formal discovery to ensure that all assets and liabilities are accounted for. Check you credit report. Monitor the narcissist’s social media and download and save any posts disparaging you (this can assist with proving to the court that co-parenting will be difficult and perhaps ‘parallel parenting’ will need to be utilized).

These are some helpful tips in dealing with a narcissist:

1. Don’t engage- the less contact you have the better. Let your attorney handle communications. There are also tools that we frequently utilize, such as Our Family Wizard, which monitor all communication and keep a log of things said.

2. Seek counseling for yourself- many times I hear that seeing a therapist will be used against you, but we have found that this is rarely the case- the Judges in Family Court are familiar with the stress that cases cause for people; on the flipside, NOT seeking help for stress and depression is more of a cause for concern than being proactive and seeking professional assistance. You MUST take care of yourself during this stressful situation.

3. Narcissists like to feel like they have ‘won’. Is there something you can offer to them, in settlement negotiations for example, that will not cause you hardship but that the narcissist really wants? Obviously, this is very case-specific, and you MUST talk about this strategy with your attorney!

4. PLAN for this and strategize BEFORE you file. This is important because you need to make sure you have copies of financial information and access to funds, as narcissists tend to behave badly when they are challenged. Although out courts will sign restraining orders and injunctions, it’s easiest to be prepared with knowledge of what your community estate entails before an account suddenly ‘disappears’ from view- because of this we recommend you maintain a ‘rainy-day’ fund just in case.

While divorcing a narcissist can be time-consuming and emotionally draining, it can be done. The attorneys at Justice Law Firm can help you prepare for battle. We are happy to consult with you about your particular situation and develop a customized strategy just for you.