Dealing With a Narcissist In Divorce

In my experience, a narcissist has the potential to cause a lot of harm in a divorce case.  I have found that dealing with a narcissist in divorce can be a relatively simple matter if certain steps are taken to keep a divorce case moving through the legal process. 

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines narcissism as : Excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.  Extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

The Family Court’s of South Carolina rely on attorneys representing litigants to move their cases through the system.  No one in the Clerk of Court’s office will schedule a case for trial without a request by an attorney.  The judges are not assigned, nor are they responsible for, a docket of cases.

No one, other than the attorneys, monitor a case to make sure that it is progressing through the legal system.  No one is ensures that discovery is being conducted, valuations being ordered and completed, investigations undertaken where needed, and other forms of pre-trial preparation are being pursued.

As a result, it is typical that months, sometimes even years, will pass without any progress on a case because neither attorney has done anything to prepare the case for resolution.  It is this kind situation that is ripe for a narcissist to exploit.

A narcissist will make unreasonable demands, almost always fail to cooperate in taking the steps necessary to move the case to resolution, and will email to the point of harassment.  Dealing with a narcissist in divorce requires that we create a legal environment in which a narcissist can not create chaos.  

In my experience the best course of action in dealing with a narcissist in divorce (and for most family court cases for that matter) is to structure a rational and efficient path to resolution from the very beginning.  If there is no dead-time and the case is progressing through the legal system in an efficient and methodical manner, there will be less opportunity for a narcissist to wreak havoc on his spouse.

These are the steps I have found to best keep a matter moving forward towards resolution and keeping narcissistic behavior in check.

  1. Obtain a Temporary Order within 30 to 45 days of filing the Complaint (or upon receipt of the same) that sets forth the “rules of the case” moving forward.  In addition to addressing standard temporary issues like custody, child support, alimony, etc., a court will always include a Mediation deadline and a Discovery Order upon request, as well as other reasonable deadlines.  The Discovery Order will mandate that information is exchanged prior to Mediation, at which time the matter will be ready for an efficient resolution.
  2. Docket all deadlines.  Whats the use of getting a discovery order or a mediation deadline if we don’t keep track of them?  We add these events to our calendars and set reminders.  This way we can stay on top of these events and make sure that they happen.
  3. Don’t respond.  Often times a true narcissist will start an argument simply as a way to exert control over others and prove how smart they are.  We have found that it is simply best not to respond to anything outside the parameters of the Temporary Order.  Any “invitation” to “discuss” an issue not controlled by the rules of the case, as established in the Temporary Order, will likely be ignored by us.
  4. Keep it written.  We do not engage a narcissist in conversations or arguments.  All communication with a narcissist is in writing and confined to issues designed to keep the case moving forward.  This way, we deny the narcissist a “stage” that is required for him to display his grandiose view of himself.

Keeping the rules clear and establishing a mechanism to keep the case moving forward will effectively disarm the narcissist.  There will be no “dead-time” to exploit and no opportunity to create arguments.  These simple steps have allowed us to resolve matters involving a narcissistic spouse in an efficient and productive way while keeping personal animosity and fighting to a minimum.

Related Posts