Divorcing a Narcissist

by: Tina Swithin

With statistics showing that Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is on the rise, the Family Court System is being taken by storm.

Sadly, the system is not equipped to deal with the gale force winds that a narcissist can create. For those who are preparing to divorce a narcissist or those who may be in the thick of it, it is imperative that you have a team of individuals who understand the dynamics of personality disorders and high conflict divorces.

One of the most critical components to your team is an attorney who is well versed in Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Your attorney is the one on the frontlines fighting for your well-being and even more importantly, the well-being of your children. Sadly, the vast majority of attorneys that I’ve encountered do not have an understanding of NPD which can be detrimental to your case.

While divorce can bring out the worst in a normal, healthy person, a divorce involving someone with NPD is like inviting the devil himself onto the battlefield. The narcissist appears to be charming, charismatic and endearing to those whom they encounter. Yet, in reality, he or she is calculated, manipulative and, many times, downright dangerous. The untrained observer may perceive the situation to be about two immature parents who are not capable of putting their children first.

Your attorney is your advocate, and it is important that he or she understands NPD because you do not have the time or energy to be educating your team on this crazy-making personality disorder, especially while you are on their clock and being charged attorney rates.

When interviewing a prospective attorney, be very straightforward and direct. Ask them to describe their personal experience working with individuals who either suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder or with individuals who have high narcissistic traits. That question offers a lead-in where one can quickly gauge whether or not the attorney knows enough to properly represent you and your children.

I would ask for examples of situations or cases that fall into the high conflict category and specifically how these were handled. Any attorney who seems annoyed or put off by your questions is not the attorney that you want on your side.   

In my recent book, “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield,” I asked followers to give their advice on questions to ask perspective attorneys. Here is a sampling of questions compiled from the NPD battlefield:

Please define a High Conflict Divorce(HCD).

Have you discovered a link between the HCD and personality disorders?

Have you ever won a case arguing emotional or psychological abuse?

Do you work closely with psychologists, therapists or evaluators who are experienced in NPD?

What are your views about high conflict divorces and under what circumstances are both parties not equally responsible for a high conflict divorce?

How are you able to help the judge realize that psychopathology and intentional behavior in one party can be solely responsible for maintaining high conflict divorce?

Hiring an attorney for a high conflict divorce is not a decision to take lightly. Ask friends, family members and colleagues for attorney recommendations, and read online reviews like Yelp or sites that specifically rate attorneys and other legal professionals. It is very helpful to sit in the courtroom to which you were assigned and watch how various attorneys interact with your assigned judge and thoroughly critique their rapport in the courtroom.

In my opinion, finding an attorney knowledgeable on high-conflict divorce is one of the most critical components to starting the divorce process with a narcissist. The decision that you make on your attorney could make or break your case. You are choosing an advocate to represent the best interest of your children. Choose wisely.

Here is another article on the dangers of dealing with a Narcissistic Personality. 

Tina Swithin is the author of Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle and the popular blog, “One Mom’s Battle”. Tina is a Huffington Post contributor. She is also a regular contributor for HopeAfterDivorce.org and FamilyShare.com. Tina's writing covers sensitive topics including, how to navigate your way through a high conflict divorce. She is a family and child advocate. Tina is engaged and resides in sunny California with her two daughters and three-legged tortoise named, “Oliver."