Custody Disputes with a Narcissist: What You Need to Know

Being married to a narcissist is difficult as you already know if you were married to one. As you may well imagine, divorcing a narcissist is often more difficult than being married to one, especially if there are children involved. When one parent is a narcissist, the likelihood of a custody dispute occurring increases exponentially. A Murfreesboro custody lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby discusses what you need to know about custody disputes involving a narcissist.

Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as an affliction characterized by a lack of empathy and a need for excessive admiration and grandiosity. People with NPD often display manipulative, self-centered, and/or demanding behavior. While a narcissist often appears to be extremely self-confident, he or she actually suffers from extremely low and fragile self-esteem and a hyper-sensitivity to criticism.

Divorce, Custody, and the Narcissist

Any divorce can become contentious; however, the odds of that happening are significantly higher when divorcing a narcissist. The key to an amicable divorce is being able to reason with your spouse and negotiate a settlement for potential disputes. Unfortunately, a narcissist, by definition, is not reasonable. They tend to have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement and can be very vindictive when challenged. Even if your narcissistic spouse wants the divorce, he or she will likely make the process of divorce difficult. If you have children with your narcissistic spouse you should prepare for a battle over custody of the children. Your spouse may genuinely want custody of the children; however, even if that is not the case, a narcissist often fights for custody of the children to create or enhance the power disparity between the parents during a divorce. “Winning” a custody battle may also be important to the narcissist’s sense of self-importance and be viewed as recognition that he/she is superior.

How to Approach a Custody Battle with a Narcissist

If you are headed for a divorce with a narcissist that will involve children, preparation is the key to getting yourself and your kids through the battle that lies ahead. The following tips may help:

  • Expect the worst. Do not kid yourself into thinking that divorcing a narcissist will be easy or that your spouse will readily agree to any parenting plan. Even if your spouse has never shown an interest in the children up to this point, expect him/her to fight for custody of the kids.
  • Fill your war chest. Unfortunately, divorcing a narcissist can be costly – especially when a custody battle is involved. To the extent possible, set aside money to fund the battle that lies ahead.
  • Consult with a custody lawyer early on.  If you are the one initiating the divorce (which is usually the case when married to a narcissist) you should consult with an experienced child custody lawyer before initiating the divorce. If possible, talk to a lawyer before approaching your spouse about the divorce.
  • Do not take the bait. Just as your spouse likely did during the course of your marriage, he/she will make relentless attempts to get a rise out of you during a divorce and/or custody battle. Always remember that his/her goal is to create the appearance of superiority and power over you. Outright ignoring attempts to bait you is the best way to stop a narcissist in his tracks.
  • Document everything. Before, during, and after the divorce you need to document everything. As you may already know, a narcissist can appear rational and “normal” to the rest of the world, making you appear unstable and unreasonable. To counter this narrative, keep a journal detailing every interaction with your spouse/former spouse. 

Contact a Murfreesboro Custody Lawyer

If you have additional questions or concerns about a custody dispute with a narcissist, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro custody lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.