Here are a few pointers that can help you win a custody battle against a narcissist spouse:
- Gather documentary evidence against your spouse
- Keep the children out of the conflict
- Limit communication and stick to facts
- Take steps to ensure the safety of your children
- Control the narrative
- Be reliable and positive
- Hire an experienced and successful family law attorney
- Keep state laws in perspective
Medical science says that a narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which the affected person feels extraordinarily self-important, craves deeply for attention or praise, often causes trouble in relationships and at work, does not empathize with others, reacts negatively even to the slightest of criticism, and becomes unhappy or angry when others do not shower the praise that the narcissist reckons is due to him/her.
Psychologists opine that a narcissist considers the spouse as a personal trophy and expects the spouse to keep paying attention, admiring and complimenting him/her all the time. Well, marriages have their ups and downs, and when things don’t go according to the narcissist’s wishes, he/she can become very jealous and try to acquire full control of the relationship. Such a narcissistic spouse may also plan emotional revenge against the other spouse or children, and have unrealistic expectations of perfection from the children, killing their self-confidence and self-worth in the process. Other characteristics of a narcissistic spouse include making the other spouse feel guilty, issuing threats, trying to manipulate the other spouse, and trying to control the children’s lives by taking away custody.
Married life with a narcissistic person can become a living hell for the spouse and the children. Though divorce is tragic, it may be preferable to living with a narcissist who refuses to seek medical help or reform.
Though each divorce comes with its own set of peculiarities, here are a few pointers that can help you effectively tackle child custody issues while dealing with a narcissist spouse:
Gather Documentary Evidence Against Your Spouse
A narcissist spouse may not hesitate to tell a lie or deny a fact to his lawyer or the courts about you and the children. Therefore, after separation, or perhaps from the first signs of “narcissistic” trouble in the marriage, you should document/record communications with him/her, including social media posts and phone calls, and keep a record of witnesses, so that the narcissist’s lies don’t prevail over your facts.
Communicate by email or phone messaging apps and backup your conversations. Also, gather any medical reports or other documents that state your spouse has a narcissistic personality disorder. In the absence of medical or psychological documents, you can even petition the courts for a psychological evaluation.
Keep the Children Out of the Conflict
Don’t badmouth your spouse to your children and don’t ask them to take sides because such prodding can negatively impact your custody case. A narcissist may not care how his words or actions impact the family, so you need to protect your children by keeping them as far away as possible from the custody battle.
If your children ask about your divorce case, tell them both you and your soon-to-be ex love them and that the divorce is something you won’t talk about at the moment. If your children are young and seem impacted, consider taking them to a therapist.
Limit Communication and Stick to facts
Do not engage in any emotional conversation or negative communication with a narcissist or his/her friends and relatives. Do not allow your anger to leak into your communication, written or verbal. It is likely to be used against you. Stick to facts and communicate the absolute minimum necessary.
Remember that narcissists love any kind of attention, even though it may be negative, and you don’t want to give them an opening.
In high-conflict custody cases, which invariably all cases with a narcissist spouse are, it is better to let your family law attorney handle communication.
Take Steps to Ensure the Safety of Your Children
Narcissists are volatile people who react strongly when forced into a corner. The risk can double if they feel they are not likely to get child custody. If your spouse harasses or stalks you, performs vulgar or lewd acts, issues threats, or abuses (emotionally, sexually, or physically) you or the children, you should contact law enforcement immediately. After that, contact your family law attorney and petition for a protective order that prohibits your spouse from contacting you.
Plus, if your narcissist spouse has threatened to kidnap the children by leaving the country, you may think about asking the court to allow you to hold the children’s passports and put the children on the State Department’s do-not-travel list. Taking these steps will help you protect the children and build evidence against your spouse.
Control the Narrative
Don’t allow the narcissist to gain control of the narrative because they love to do just that. Counter every allegation with truth, documents, evidence, and facts.
This is why we suggested that you should keep a record of all communication with your narcissistic spouse and gather appropriate evidence that can disprove baseless allegations.
Be Reliable and Positive
You should continue to be a reliable and positive parent despite your extremely provocative spouse. Don’t fight back or send angry messages on email or messenger. If you get provoked and start venting your anger in your communication, the courts may not like it, and your spouse may use your emotion to cause you to escalate to increasingly erratic behavior, making you look like the bad guy. Remember that in a child custody case, the courts take into account the relationship of the child with each parent, and so, if you stop being reliable or positive, your case can weaken.
Just keep your focus on your children during the separation period and let your family law attorney do the rest. Also focus on demonstrating that you are psychologically, physically, and financially fit to care for your children.
Hire an Experienced and Successful Family Law Attorney
You should hire an experienced lawyer who can demonstrate that he has successfully handled child custody cases against a narcissistic spouse. This requires research and you may have to interview a few custody lawyers before choosing one.
Keep State Laws in Perspective
Remember that 50/50 legal and joint parenting is the general norm in most states. So, do not paint your narcissist spouse negatively, judge him/her, or make unfounded allegations against him/her in court. Just stick to the facts and be courteous. Let the courts decide that the narcissist spouse is unfit to get custody of the children.
Finally, know that online tips or primers are best practices followed by other spouses, and they can only guide you to some extent. Every custody case is different and the courts decide based on the circumstances of your case. So, reconcile your strategy with the circumstances of your case.