I have considerable experience in divorcing a narcissist. That’s because as a Cheshire divorce solicitor many people ask me for help in sorting out their separation or divorce. Some family clients tell me at our first meeting that their husband or wife has a narcissistic personality disorder. Other clients think that their husband or wife behaves unreasonably and that their spouse has some of the traits of a narcissist. Dealing with a spouse with a narcissistic personality is difficult, especially when you are trying to divorce and move on with your life. That’s why it helps if your solicitor has experience of divorcing a narcissist.
Is my spouse a narcissist?
In any blog on divorcing a narcissist, it is important to look at some of the essential traits of a narcissist to help you understand if your spouse has narcissistic personality characteristics.
The Oxford dictionary defines a narcissist as a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. Narcissists are said to have the following personality traits:
- A sense of self-importance;
- A sense of entitlement;
- Requiring praise and attention;
- Willing to exploit and use others without feeling a sense of guilt or shame;
- Able to demean and belittle other people without worrying about the impact of their behaviour;
- Able to live in their own fantasy world where they are the centre of attention.
Do any of those traits sound like your husband or wife? If so, you may need help from a counsellor or, if you have decided to separate or divorce, from a specialist Cheshire divorce solicitor.
Getting divorced from a narcissist
It is stressful going through a divorce, even when it is amicable. However, when your husband or wife is a narcissist it can feel as if there is no escape from your marriage. There is, but you will need support, both legal and emotional.
If you are married to someone who exhibits narcissistic traits or has a narcissistic personality disorder then you have to accept that your husband or wife won’t think that they are at fault or that anything they do is wrong. It is therefore pretty futile to have direct discussions on the reasons behind why you want to get divorced in the hope that they will understand your point of view. If they are a narcissist they won’t.
Any discussion about your marriage and separation will be turned by your husband or wife into a tirade on looking at the impact of what is happening on them, rather than the impact on you or the children. If you have the sort of personality that gets stressed or you know you will end up too frazzled to deal with the separation if your spouse starts to belittle you, then it may be best to leave things in the hands of your divorce solicitor. A solicitor who has experience with narcissistic personality disorders and divorce will have the strategies to be able to sort out your separation and divorce.
Divorce proceedings and narcissists
If you are married to a narcissist then you can be confident that you will have the grounds to start divorce proceedings against them. That is because, under current divorce law, you can start divorce proceedings if your marriage has irretrievably broken down and your husband or wife has behaved unreasonably.
What counts as unreasonable behaviour is the typical behaviour of a narcissist. For example:
- Belittling you in front of friends or family; or
- Not being willing to share household tasks; or
- Prioritising themselves and their interests above anyone else , including the children; or
- Not being willing to listen to you; or
- Making you feel at fault, for example, by saying you are the one who is mentally ill or who is a poor parent.
Divorcing someone with a narcissistic personality disorder isn’t easy. Often they will say that the marriage hasn’t irretrievably broken down (when it clearly has) or they will deny all responsibility for their behaviour and say that they will defend the divorce proceedings. If you are dealing with a narcissist husband or wife you need a strong, no-nonsense solicitor on your side who won’t get caught up in your spouse’s tirades but instead will focus on your divorce and sorting out the arrangements for the children and the financial settlement.
Getting help with a narcissist spouse
When you are separating or getting divorced from a narcissist spouse then you need all the legal and emotional support you can get. Your friends and family may not realise what you have been through and are currently coping with. That is because your spouse may present a ‘front’ to the outside world where he/ she appears charming and worried about you and your ‘breakdown’.
First and foremost there is no point in challenging what your spouse is saying to friends and family. If you do then it is only likely to fuel matters as your husband or wife won’t be able to see the error of their ways as they are only able to see things from their perspective. That can be very hard for you to cope with. That’s why seeing a counsellor or therapist can really help you see the situation you are in for what it is, rather than accepting your spouse’s interpretation of events based on their fantasy world where you are the only one at fault.
Divorce and the narcissist parent
When you are divorcing a husband or wife with narcissist traits or who has a narcissistic personality disorder it is easy to feel very guilty about your children and in a quandary about what to do about childcare arrangements. Whilst your spouse is only likely to be interested in themselves, they may ask the court to order that the children live with him or her as part of their mind control games or because they know their stance will frighten you.
Whilst it can be tempting to say that a parent with a narcissistic personality disorder should not have contact with their children after the separation or divorce this may not be realistic. For example, older children may want ongoing contact with the other parent or you may need help with childcare. What’s more if you say that you do not want your child to have contact with the other parent they may raise accusations of parental alienation although all you are trying to do is to protect your child from a parent with a narcissistic personality disorder.
If you and your spouse end up in court over the childcare arrangements it is important that:
- Your husband or wife’s narcissistic traits are outlined neutrally; and
- The impact of their behaviour on you and your children is fully explained. That is important because many of the behaviours of a narcissist amount to abuse, such as controlling or coercive behaviour.
In children court proceedings a court has to carefully consider any allegations of domestic abuse . Abuse includes emotional abuse or psychological abuse of you or the children. If a finding of abuse is made then the court should only make a child arrangements order and contact with the narcissistic parent if the court is satisfied that the physical and emotional safety of the child and the parent with whom the child lives can, as far as possible, be secured before, during and after the contact.
An experienced Cheshire divorce solicitor can put the case in children proceedings for expert reports on a parent with narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic traits. A psychologist or other expert can be asked to report on either the parent or on the whole family and assess the impact of the narcissistic parent’s behaviour on you and the children.
Many divorcing partners are wary about labelling a narcissistic parent an ‘abuser’ but it is important to recognise that abuse isn’t just physical and the effects of coercive and controlling behaviour can be insidious on you and your children. A specialist Cheshire divorce solicitor can help you recognise that and work out childcare arrangements that best protect your children or can robustly represent you in court proceedings.
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How to get a financial settlement from a narcissist
Normally a Cheshire divorce solicitor will recommend that they negotiate with your spouse to reach a financial settlement. If your spouse is a narcissist or has a narcissistic personality disorder then the advice may be different. That’s because it can be impossible to negotiate with a narcissist as they always think they are right and can’t see anyone else’s point of view, other than their own. To the narcissist it is all about their financial wants and needs and not yours or the children’s needs.
If you start financial court proceedings there is a court timetable put in place so your spouse can’t delay or prevaricate and the judge can ultimately decide on what financial orders are made. No one likes to think that a judge will take control of the family finances and make a financial court order deciding whether, for example, the family home should be sold or if you should get a share of the pension or the family business. However, when you are dealing with a narcissist there may be little alternative as your spouse won’t be prepared to compromise.
You may think that you know your spouse and that even if the family judge makes an order to transfer the family home into your sole name that your spouse will not sign the paperwork to do so. The court is used to dealing with spouses who won’t co-operate so, if necessary, the judge can sign the property paperwork on behalf of your spouse. The court also has the power to make financial disclosure orders and to draw adverse inferences if your spouse just won’t accept the authority of the court.
Narcissistic spouses like to think that they are very powerful, during the relationship and during the divorce, children and financial proceedings. That is why it is so important that you chose a divorce solicitor who won’t be intimidated or fazed by your spouse’s behaviour. Instead your divorce solicitor will focus on securing your divorce and obtaining children and financial court orders that best meet yours and your children’s needs.
Evolve Family Law solicitors are approachable and friendly providing expert divorce, children and financial settlement advice with experience in handling divorces where a spouse has a narcissistic personality disorder. Contact us today and let us help you