Tag: Narcissistic Personality Disorders

How do you survive if the narcissist won custody of your kids and you have to accept it?

Hard truths incoming.

When dealing with a co-parent who is afflicted with a personality disorder, do these things, and do them all at the same time:

1) Examine your own personality flaws first. Acknowledge and work to correct your own personality flaws. You may gain insights into the other parent you couldn’t see before. If you must complain about the other parent’s personality flaws, do not do so without acknowledging and working to correct your own personality flaws. Be gracious (and that means when you don’t want to be).

In short: be humble, meaning open-minded, principled, and focused on solving the problem, not on self pity. Otherwise, you risk overlooking some (perhaps all) of the solutions, if there are any, to the problems you have with the other parent.

3) Adjust and adapt. When dealing with a co-parent who is afflicted with a personality disorder, you’re almost surely wasting time if you try to force or even to persuade the other parent to change. It is not fair that you have to do all the adjusting and adapting, but lamenting that fact is a waste. You need to understand and accept (“agree” is even better than “accept”) the fact that adjusting and adapting may be the only way to reach what peace and happiness there is to be had under the circumstances.

4) Engage in all of your dealings with the other parent with class. Fighting fire with fire burns you up emotionally and spiritually. Our children notice far more than we believe. “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” ― John Wooden

5) Reach out to God, sincerely. Lay your burdens at his feet and ask Him for help and guidance. He will “reach your reaching”.

For you own sake, be this way. It will take time and effort, but it will bring you peace and enable you to make the best of your situation).

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Has anyone ever been able to prove narcissistic abuse in divorce court?

Yes, it happens quite frequently.*  

What people don’t understand is that finding a spouse is a jerk usually doesn’t amount to much in the divorce action.  

Most people believe—falsely—that if they can show the court that their spouses are narcissists (or some other type of insufferable personality) that this will result in the court bringing the wrath of God down on the narcissist and showering the other spouse with sympathy and riches for his/her trouble. Not so. 

Literally hundreds of thousands of people going through a divorce whose spouses suffer from (or who are suspected of suffering from) personality disorders believe that “if I can prove to the court that my spouse suffers from [antisocial personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder], I’ll win everything my heart desires in the divorce case.” No, you won’t.  

It’s not narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder that matters, but actions (or a failure to act) that matters, first and foremost. If your spouse is physically or emotionally abusing you or the kids (and please accept that your when your spouse occasionally disagrees with or criticizes you or your children that does not make him or her emotionally abusive), it doesn’t matter why. If your spouse has a drug or alcohol problem, or a gambling habit, or your able-bodied spouse is lazy and won’t earn a living, it doesn’t matter why. There’s no excuse. An abusive or grossly irresponsible spouse is bad regardless of whether he or she has a personality disorder. See?  


*Now that does not mean that a judge necessarily makes the specific finding of “Husband/Wife is a narcissist who abused his/her spouse,” but many divorce courts find, in making or denying awards of marital property and assets, alimony, child custody, and parent-time, and protective or restraining orders that a spouse and/or parent engaged in lying, cheating, manipulative, exploitative, abusive, neglectful, irresponsible, and/or parental alienating behavior. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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How can I reveal my soon-to-be ex as having NPD in our custody case?

How can I reveal my soon-to-be ex as having NPD in our child custody case?

You’re asking the wrong question. You shouldn’t be asking how you can prove your spouse has NPD (or some other mental or emotional disorder), but whether your spouse in some way unfit—due to mental illness or emotional disorder—to exercise custody of or parent-time with the children. 

There are so many people who believe that if he/she can prove that his/her spouse or the other parent merely suffers from a mental illness or emotional disorder he/she will somehow win the custody battle. 

It seems as though people believe that mental illness or emotional disorders automatically disqualify one from exercising custody or parent time (visitation) with one’s children. It’s not true. I don’t know where this misconception came from. 

First, merely having a mental or emotional disorder does not make one an unfit parent. Merely having a certain mental or emotional disorder or disorders does not automatically make one a danger to himself or to others. 

Second, even having a mental illness or emotional disorder that could render one a danger to himself or others does not mean that one cannot function as a fit parent. Many parents with serious mental and emotional disorders take medication to treat and manage those disorders successfully. Merely having a mental or emotional disorder (or other kinds of disabilities) does not automatically disqualify a parent as fit to exercise child custody and parent-time. 

Third, proving that one has a serious and disqualifying mental or emotional disorder or disorders is extraordinarily difficult. Diagnosis of many mental and emotional disorders is highly subjective. And if there isn’t associated seriously bad behavior to provide tangible, verifiable proof of actual serious harm resulting from suffering from mental illness or emotional disorders, then accusing a spouse or other parent of suffering from mental illness or emotional disorders essentially comes down to a matter of “your word against mine.” 

Fourth, even if a parent is self-absorbed, hot-tempered, hypocritical, etc., that doesn’t make the parent inherently unfit to exercise custody or parent-time. There are innumerable people suffering from some form of mental illness or personality disorder who still manage to function adequately in society. We may not know exactly why they’re so difficult to deal with, why they’re such jerks, why they won’t change, but they still meet minimum standards of behavior for normal society. 

Finally, accusing the other spouse or parent of suffering from mental illness or emotional disorders as a means of poisoning the opinion of the court against your spouse or other parent (and thereby obtain an advantage) can backfire. Making unsupported allegations comes across to courts as cheap shots (which they are). Unsupported allegations damage your credibility. It can make you look like the crazy and unstable one. It’s trendy to throw around these terms and accuse your spouse of suffering from NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) or BPD (borderline personality disorder), or other defects and disabilities. Mere allegations are a dime a dozen. Mere allegations and uncorroborated stories of mental illness or ability disorders don’t usually get a court’s attention (false claims of child abuse and domestic violence, however, are a different story altogether). 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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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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How do I show the court about my sons non-diagnosed NPD mother to get a sole custody?

How do I show the court about my sons non-diagnosed NPD mother to get a sole custody?

Oh, ho, ho, ho! So you want to prove your wife has Narcissistic Personality Disorder do you? And you believe that proving it (if you can) will result in you being awarded custody of your son?

I wouldn’t do it, unless you can prove your case virtually beyond a reasonable doubt—and that’s a tall order.

In my experience (21 years as a divorce attorney), trying to win custody by trying to prove your spouse suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is an exercise in futility at best, and an undue risk of backfiring on you at worst.

Such claims are greeted with heavy skepticism from courts. “Personality disorder” sounds like pseudoscience (much of what gets presented to the courts on the subject is). Claiming someone has a personality disorder can also cause you to appear to be something of a wimp: “So your spouse is hard to get along with. Quelle surprise. Is it any wonder you’re getting divorced? ” And claims that your spouse has a disorder often carry that whiff of the self-serving (“Oh, so it’s your spouse and her ‘personality disorder’ that are to blame, huh? Nothing you did, eh? ‘Looks like you’re trying to avoid responsibility for your own mess.”).

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that personality disorders can be, in some cases, are so severe and so ruinous of a marriage and family. But it’s so hard to prove. There are many reasons. One, courts these days generally don’t take diagnoses of personality disorders seriously. Two, some people with personality disorders can be quite adept at fooling the diagnostic tests.

Some people think, “If I get an expert witness, then the court will really take notice!” I disagree. Courts appear to be growing less and less trusting of expert witnesses. That’s probably a good development overall because for years much of what was passing for “scientific” and “expert” opinion—particularly in the family law arena—was junk science—there was nothing scientific about it. It ruined lives. So again, you run into skepticism and even resistance to expert witnesses on the subject of personality disorders.

Rather than focusing your case on proving the existence of the other parent’s personality disorder, focus on providing the court with evidence of your spouse’s specific behaviors that are causing so much harm to you, your children, and the family collectively. If you have clear-cut evidence—and enough of such evidence—then the court will be more comfortable with this kind of evidence and more accepting of it.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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