Can a narcissist get custody of a child?

Of course.

First, even if one could prove a parent suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), merely suffering from this condition wouldn’t automatically disqualify a parent from being awarded sole or joint custody of children. Merely suffering from a condition isn’t the same as being disabled by a condition. For example, if a parent suffered from kleptomania (an impulse control disorder characterized by the recurrent irresistible urge to steal things one does not need), but The condition in check by not stealing, being a kleptomaniac alone wouldn’t the any reason to deprive a parent of a child custody award. Likewise, if a parent suffered from a serious heart condition, but was adequately treating the condition and thus able to take care of children adequately, merely having the condition would not render the parent unfit. Mere NPD itself isn’t a factor in the child custody award analysis, it’s bad behavior. So, if a parent is abusing or neglecting the children because of his/her NPD, it’s not the NPD that concerns the court, it’s the abuse and the neglect stemming from it. See?

Second, NPD is a mental health condition, a personality disorder, and thus difficult to establish as a matter of fact. It’s invisible. It’s not like blindness or paralysis, something easily identifiable, where the effects of it are easily identifiable as well. Additionally, NPD is somewhat subjective. One psychologist might diagnose someone with NPD, another might not. and as you might imagine, in a divorce and child custody setting, it’s not hard to find (if one wants to play that game) dueling “experts” (some lawyers call them rent-a-docs) with diametrically opposed opinions on the subject of NPD.

Third, even if you knew that your spouse suffers from NPD and that the NPD poses a serious risk of emotional, mental, and/or physical harm to your children, if the judge doesn’t believe in NPD or believe that the NPD is a big problem, then what you know doesn’t matter at all when it comes to the court making the child custody award. Courts take claims of mental health problems with a grain of salt, and understandably so. Given that mental health condition diagnoses can be so subjective, that they aren’t “tangible,” as easy to identify as being blind or deaf or paralyzed or epileptic, etc., courts are uncomfortable with taking it on faith that a mental health condition is a serious problem that could potentially affect the child custody award.

Bottom line: if you are pinning your hopes of winning the child custody battle on proving that your spouse suffers from NPD, you’re barking up the wrong tree. That stated, NPD could be part of a number of problems that, in the aggregate, may disqualify your spouse from being awarded the kind of custody award he or she desires, but on its own merely being diagnosed with NPD is rarely, if ever enough. In 24 years of practice I have never seen a parent denied custody or had his or her child custody award curtailed because of NPD, and I doubt I ever will. It’s not the tendencies or the urges that harm children (and thus affect the child custody award), it’s bad behavior that does.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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