Divorcing a Narcissist: 7 Proven Legal Tactics
Divorcing a narcissist can be particularly tiresome. Whilst every divorce comes with a different set of emotions and obstacles, separating from someone with narcissistic personality disorder presents unique psychological and legal challenges. These can, however, be mitigated using proven tactics.
Authored by experienced divorce lawyer, Hardeep Dhillon, this guide explores the difficulties of divorcing a narcissist and seven approaches that will help you to achieve the right outcome. If you require any further support, get in touch today.
There’s plenty of ground to cover here. If you’re looking for a particular section, use the links below to navigate to it:
- What is a narcissist?
- Why a narcissist won’t divorce you
- The stages of divorcing a narcissist
- How to negotiate a divorce settlement with a narcissist.
What is a narcissist?
A narcissist is someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Individuals with this mental health condition are generally characterised by an inflated sense of their own importance and excessive admiration or interest in themselves. There are lots of different extremes of NPD.
Narcissists have been widely studied within psychology. Research has shown traits to include:
- Being consumed by their own fantasies of success, power, brilliance and love
- Having inflated egos and feeling the need to be recognised as superior
- Always believing they are right
- Exaggerating their own accomplishments and talents, and seeking applause for these
- Believing that they are best at everything and believe that others should envy them
- Controlling conversations and belittling others
- Being unwilling or unable to recognise the needs and feelings of theirs
- Feeling entitled to succeed without putting in any effort or work
- Taking advantage of others.
Why a narcissist won’t divorce you
A narcissist might oppose divorce initially as it challenges the high esteem in which they hold themselves. They may later see drawn out legal proceedings and custody battles as a means to punish their spouse for perceived misdeeds.
All of this manifests itself in certain common behaviours that are easy to recognise as someone with extensive experience in divorce law:
- Withholding information during financial settlements
- Refusing to engage in negotiations or playing mind games
- Ignoring advice from their own solicitors
- Attempting to drag out the divorce process
- Weaponising their children.
You may have experienced some level of this narcissistic resistance to divorce from your spouse. This is naturally frustrating – but you’ll be in a much stronger position once you understand the typical stages of divorcing a narcissist and the tactics that can help you.
The stages of divorcing a narcissist
There are unique legal tactics that can help with divorcing a narcissist, but the main stages involved are broadly speaking the same as any divorce: ultimately, you will either negotiate and reach a divorce settlement or require litigation. This can be broken down further as follows.
1. Deciding to divorce
Living with a narcissistic spouse is notoriously tiresome – and the decision to divorce them may be a long time in the making. From mind games and manipulation to outright coercive control, the abusive behaviour of narcissists can have a significant impact on your wellbeing and it is vital to recognise when it is time to get out of the relationship.
2. Getting ready for divorce proceedings
Preparation is key in any divorce, no less so when divorcing a narcissist. Now is the time to collate your own documentation and get your finances in order before making the application. Seek advice from specialist organisations so that you have information on what services you can lean on to help you through this difficult process, for example help with housing, benefits, and emotional support.
3. The negotiation phase
All being well, you should be able to reach a divorce settlement, make financial arrangements, and settle any custody matters through negotiation or mediation.
Narcissists are often challenging to negotiate with, however, and may even withdraw from the process altogether. It can be exasperating at the time, but if your spouse is unwilling to engage in early negotiations this will only weaken their position should further legal proceedings be necessary.
4. Obtaining a court resolution
Divorcing a narcissist is rarely plain sailing. Should negotiation attempts prove unsuccessful, you can then consider whether to make a court application.
Bear in mind that divorce court proceedings are costly, drag out an already lengthy process, and often create further animosity, so should be considered a last resort. Even when dealing with the most extreme of narcissists, you should always seek legal advice and attempt to reach a peaceful resolution out of court first.
How to negotiate a divorce settlement with a narcissist
When you are separating from a narcissist it can be incredibly difficult to make progress on matters as every little matter will be fought as a big issue. This can have cost implications and increase the timeframe within which you resolve matters.
There are various legal tactics you can employ to work towards smoother and more cost-effective proceedings.
1. Focus on the issues
In the legal process, and whether you are considering the divorce grounds, finances or arrangements to the children, it is important to remain focused on the issue and not be drawn into tit for tat allegations. This is because a narcissist loves to engage in arguments.
A narcissist will not accept their own fault in the breakdown of the marriage/relationship; therefore, it is important to walk away without the need to explain yourself and not feel the need to respond to every allegation/ paragraph in their correspondence which is solely sought to antagonise you.
Do not get drawn into their tactics. Be proactive as opposed to reactive, and focus on working towards the key things that you wish to resolve. This will help you manage your legal costs and the stress associated with the whole proceedings.
2. Create a barrier between you and your narcissistic spouse/partner
It will be very difficult for you to negotiate directly with a narcissist as they will seek to exert a level of control over you. It is, therefore, important to step away and seek a professional to create a barrier between you and the narcissistic spouse/partner.
3. Do not let them get a reaction from you
It is very important to keep them at arm’s length because if they see that their behaviour is impacting you then they will continue with their harmful behaviour. A narcissistic person will be driven by the desire to win however, family proceedings seek to act fairly and therefore do not get intimidated by their aggressive attitude with comments like ‘you will not get anything!’
Narcissists are particularly difficult when children are involved and will seek to utilise the children as a means of control. Therefore, it is important that the children are made to feel that they can talk to you freely without feeling that they are taking sides so that any red flag behaviour can be picked up. When deciding matters for the children, again, do not get drawn into unnecessary arguments.
There will be times when the narcissistic partner/spouse will not adhere to times or arrangements with the sole aim to exert their control. Do not get drawn into this and learn to let small issues go for the overall goal of peace of mind (provided always that the issues do not impact the safety of your children). Keep your conversations and communications to a minimum.
4. Be mentally prepared
It is important to be able to identify when a narcissist is deflecting from their own actions and is seeking to lay the blame at your door. It is important to be mentally prepared for everything to be your fault.
5. Document everything
A narcissist will make you doubt yourself. With that in mind, it is important to keep a diary of key incidents or situations so that you know what you are feeling is not a one-off but has a pattern of behaviour. It is also important to save every email and message so that you can rely on this. Prepays even keep a diary or journal to detail your emotions as a way of healing for yourself.
6. Pick your battles
A narcissist is unlikely to fully comply with court directions or procedures and in childcare arrangements, they are likely to flout the rules to exert their control. Therefore, when separating/divorcing from a narcissistic, decide which battles you wish to spend your time, money and energy on.
Divorcing a narcissist can be very exhausting emotionally and financially therefore be prepared for a long battle. However, your focus should also be to remain on track and not to let the process get the better of you.
A narcissist will often want to be in control so be prepared with information relating to your own financial position. Gather as much information from online resources so that you are aware of the process and do not get intimidated by them to believe that you will not succeed in the divorce/separation process.
We can help you with divorcing a narcissist
If you are struggling to make progress on matters then we would be happy to assist. With many decades of combined experience, the divorce law team at Richard Nelson LLP has achieved the right outcomes for many clients who have divorced narcissists in the past.