By: Stephen J. Plog
Surviving a divorce is hard work. You can expect your personal life, family life, and assets to significantly change in the process. Divorcing a narcissist can make divorce proceedings unusually difficult, but less so when you utilize the right resources.
Today, we address the topic of how to protect yourself when divorcing a narcissist.
What Is a Narcissist?
People with narcissistic personality disorder have an excessive sense of self-importance, are extremely preoccupied with themselves, and lack empathy.
Your spouse might be a narcissist if they:
- Are obsessively self-interested;
- Use others to achieve their goals;
- Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance;
- Exaggerate their achievements and talents;
- Don’t consider others’ feelings;
- Lack empathy;
- React to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation;
- Need constant attention and admiration;
- Are preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love; and
- Pursue selfish goals a majority of the time.
These traits can be incredibly hard to manage in a setting as contentious as divorce court.
Tips and Tools for Divorcing a Narcissist
When you get a divorce in Colorado, the court needs to decide how to divide your marital assets and debts and how to allocate parental responsibilities. The division of assets and debts must be fair, and the allocation of parental responsibilities must be in the best interests of the child.
Dividing Assets and Allocating Parenting Rights
To make decisions about asset division and parenting rights, the court looks at:
- All of the assets and financial obligations you and your spouse have;
- What each spouse contributed to the marital estate;
- Each spouse’s economic circumstances and needs;
- The child’s wishes regarding parenting time;
- Familial interactions;
- Histories of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse;
- The involvement level and parenting ability of each party; and
- The mental and physical health of each parent.
As you can see, this process provides plenty of opportunities for a narcissist to exaggerate their contributions and needs while downplaying yours. Even scarier, many narcissists have no problem with manipulating your child or children to convince the court to reduce your parenting rights and increase theirs. To combat this behavior, you need to be organized, diligent, and keep your wits about you.
Gather All Correspondence and Take Detailed Notes
Narcissists are good at diminishing the people around them and invalidating others’ feelings. If you’ve dealt with a narcissist long enough, you’ve probably suffered emotional abuse by being repeatedly told you are worthless. You may have even come to believe your contributions and needs aren’t as significant as theirs. But this is a lie that you must combat. Keeping prompt, detailed records and notes about interactions with your spouse can help keep your memory fresh and limit your spouse’s ability to exaggerate and diminish you on the stand.
Study All of Your Finances Immediately and Consider Using a Forensic Accountant
Immediately review all of your assets and financial obligations. Sometimes spouses try to hide assets before a divorce filing to fraudulently tip a settlement in their favor. If you understand what and where all of your assets are before filing, you have a better chance of preventing your spouse from hiding them. If you’re having trouble locating and valuing assets, a forensic accountant can help.
Keep Your Interactions Neutral
When deciding parenting rights, the court looks carefully at how you and your spouse interact. Suffering prolonged mistreatment in a relationship with a narcissist can make you understandably angry, but you must avoid expressing anger or letting your spouse goad you into emotional reactions. If the judge believes that you’re unable to be at least cordial with your spouse when you’re co-parenting, they might limit your rights.
Communicating only through your attorneys about financial matters and using neutral forms of communication such as email or texting for co-parenting can keep heads cool and preserve your credibility in court. If you have to coordinate child exchanges with your spouse, it’s helpful to bring a calm witness. Or, you can conduct the exchanges in neutral, public places. If your child is in school, you can have one spouse drop the child off, and the other picks them up.
We Are Here to Help
Since 1999, our experienced lawyers at Plog & Stein P.C. have been dedicated to representing individuals in Colorado family law proceedings. Our attorneys can advocate for you with the kind of diligence, strategy, and precision necessary to achieve a fair divorce decree and effectively combat a narcissistic spouse’s tactics. You and your family deserve to be protected during a divorce, and we can do the job. Call us today, or contact us online for help.