"This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice."
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Excerpts from: SPLITTING – Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist by William A. Eddy, Attorney, Mediator and Clinical Social Worker and Randi Kreger
"The best strategy for Targets of their Blame is to take a very Assertive Approach – to quickly provide credible factual information to the court and to try to be as perfect as possible in every way during the court process."
"You must rely more on exposing the false statements and serious misbehaviors of the Blamer and the truth about you in response to each major false allegation. Evidence and credibility win in the long run."
"The way to survive and win in court is with verifiable, clear-cut facts. This is usually in the form of documents, credible witnesses, and knowledgeable experts/evaluators."
"Do not tell others that you have diagnosed a personality disorder in your spouse. You are not qualified to do so, and this escalates resistance to any cooperation whatsoever. You may discuss “possible patterns” with a therapist or evaluator. But let the evaluator make the diagnosis or explain the pattern to the court without giving it a name."
"I use the analogy that you can’t bounce a ball off sand. The more they try to get your attention by bouncing the ball, if you’re sand, they have to keep bending over to pick up the ball. They basically run out of energy. Then they move over to the pavement (which is somebody else) and start bouncing the ball off of them. The more you don’t have any contact and become the sandbox, the better. You have to have some contact regarding your child’s welfare and medical issues etc. But it’s important to be as brief as possible, One or two sentences at most, preferably by email."
"If you share parenting, develop a stable, arms-length relationship that is not too rejecting nor too intimate with your “ex.” Support an appropriate relationship between your children and your ex so that he or she does not feel constantly threatened with feelings of loss or inferiority. Keep record of events that could be useful if you return to court. Breaking up is hard to do. The more you educate yourself, obtain support, avoid actions that make you a Target, and take an Assertive Approach, the better off you will be in this difficult journey."
"In some cases, Targets have said later on that they would have given in to a Blamer’s early financial demands if they had realized how much time and money court can cost. I don’t necessarily recommend this, but it is something that should be considered in each case – except when the physical and mental health of a child is at stake. On the other hand, you must consider the long-term effects of conceding to the Blamer’s demands. In many cases, this simply reinforces their distorted thinking and they will expect more and more concessions in the future. A key factor to consider in answering this question is whether the disputed issue is a narrow and small one that may be resolved by one financial settlement. If there are no children and you do not expect a future relationship, it may be wise to make a settlement for an amount you can live with and get the battle over quickly. In fact, you may save money in the long run."
Are you willing to tell all? It is common for Targets to want to hold back on exposing all of this misbehaviour. You may be worried that confronting the Blamer will escalate the Blamer, while holding back on negative feedback has calmed him or her down in the past. (You also may have engaged in behaviour you are not proud of and do not want to expose.) However, if the Blamer has already engaged you in a battle, you will need to present all of the necessary information that will help the court understand what is going on. You must be willing to expose all of this information if you intend to succeed at court."
"Confronting a Blamer in court can take a few months or many years. It can cost a lot, in terms of time, money and emotional distress. But it often costs less if you fight hard at the start. It helps to know this and to be prepared for anything."
"In court, the goal is to make a decision. Once a decision is made, the issue is resolved and the court moves on. Decisions are based on persuasion in the adversary process. The more persuasive party (or their attorney) will prevail, and the least persuasive will lose."
"Sarah and Sam
moved in together after an exciting two-month romance. Soon they were married and pregnant.
However, Sam was surprisingly jealous of their new child and seemed to view the baby as a personal threat to his importance in Sarah’s life. He began occasionally hitting Sarah and even punched her in the stomach. She had some bruises, but always made up excuses and lied about it when others inquired, even his sister. After baby Jay was born, Sam became increasingly disdainful and demeaning of Sarah. “You’re ugly and fat now. Who would want you?” He got angry when her cousin, who lived nearby, gave her assistance with the baby. “I can take care of anything you need. Are you saying that I’m not providing for you? You’re my wife and I come first.”
She slowly became cut off from her friends and family. Sam seemed to want complete control of her and the child. Suddenly, Jay was ‘his’ son, not our son. He spoke of great things for Jay while he continued to put Sarah down – and continued shoving, hitting and occasionally giving her bruises. Sometimes he apologized, but not always, She had been physically abused as a child and was used to accepting this behaviour. After enough incidents, a cousin helped Sarah get up the nerve to go to court and ask for restraining orders. She didn’t really want a divorce and only wanted him to change. She got a restraining order based on one incident she described. She held back the full history of abuse, because she did not want to upset him too much. But she changed her mind and did not have the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) papers served on Sam, so they expired. Finally, she again went to court, got a new TRO, had the papers served and he was ordered to move out of the house and stay 100 yards away from her. However, at their first full hearing, Sarah was surprised to see that Sam had an attorney (she had none).
Sam’s attorney argued persuasively that the allegations against Sam were false and that he should get custody of their son Jay, now 1 year old. He alleged that Sarah was depressed, was a pill addict, hit the child, gave him tranquilizers to keep him quiet, and left him unattended to wander in the house while she slept all day.
Sam provided two declarations, one from a friend and one from his sister, who said Sarah told her that the bruises were from being clumsy (which Sarah actually told her). Both declarations swore that Sam had never been violent with anyone, that he was a very caring father, and that Sarah was mentally unstable. None of this was true, but Sarah was in shock. She knew she had seen her doctor for sleeping pills and overslept on one occasion. She felt guilty and was unable to speak up in her own defense against his aggressive attorney and his declarations. The judge ordered Sam and Sarah into a custody evaluation, and awarded Sam temporary custody of Jay pending a full evaluation and hearing on custody. Sarah was given visitation three days a week, with exchanges at her cousin’s house, and required to undergo a substance abuse assessment. Sam also produced a deed showing that their home was only in his name, claiming it was his separate property. His attorney said that if anyone should move out, it was Sarah. She had her cousin she could stay with – and Sam owned the house. The judge seemed sympathetic with Sam and told Sarah she must move. Her temporary restraining order was dismissed."
Excerpts from: DIVORCE - The Real Truth, The Hidden Dangers Surviving Deception, Betrayal and Narcissism - Ann Bradley, M.A.
"Prepare for the lies. Have an answer. Be bold. You may have the truth on your side, but your spouse has no empathy and will destroy you with lies. Find a way to get the truth out that will show the lies up. There is always a lie you can build on. Take his lie and show how it leads to another and another."
“It’s no secret moms are emotional about their children. But emotions in family court is deadly. Emotion is considered a sign of psychological problem. Outside the divorce arena, they are praised for creating strong bonds with their children. It is expected they will “do anything” for their kids. Sometimes we call this “family values.” In court you can be harmed by emotional outbursts. The women I met in custody battles told me that this was the cruellest twist of fate, that mothering instincts were used without shame as bargaining chips and labelled pathological”.
"Find a way to make sure your narcissist is getting something out of the negotiations that he wants. He has to feel he is winning. If he feels like he is losing, the litigation will continue and be used as revenge."
The Importance Of Documentation This is crucial, so pay attention. The more supporting documentation you can bring in to present to the evaluator, the better, as long as it's relevant. Another EXTREMELY important point is this: DON'T "SLAM" YOUR SPOUSE.
The Parenting Evaluation Process
Evaluators don't appreciate when a parent spends much of his/her time badmouthing the other parent. I can tell you that from personal experience. And it is really obvious when people do so and it shows that they have an agenda.
Dr. Reena Sommer
BE CAREFUL ABOUT UNVERIFIABLE INFORMATION: The accuracy of the information you provide to the court is very important. Based solely on what you say in declarations or testimony in court, the judge may make very serious orders regarding the other party and yourself. If it later turns out that you made false or reckless statements -- even if you were well-intentioned -- there may be negative consequences, such as sanctions (financial penalties), or you may lose your case entirely. Emotional claims without supporting information can make you lack credibility, and in court credibility can be the most important factor.
Before You Go To Court by William Eddy, LCSW
High Conflict Institute Website
Tip: Learn to not react emotionally or defensively to the accusations of your abuser. Instead, prepare a co-parenting plan that will impress the courts/mediators focusing on the best interests of the child. Let your abuser make his bizarre negative comments about you as it will soon become apparent you are the focus of his abuse and his interest is not with the children. See our page on Avoiding the N's Rage so you can have some information on face-saving tactics to use.
Excerpts from: UNDERSTANDING THE BATTERER IN CUSTODY AND VISITATION DISPUTES by R. Lundy Bancroft
An abuser focuses on being charming and persuasive during a custody dispute, with an effect that can be highly misleading to Guardians ad Litem, court mediators, judges, police officers, therapists, family members, and friends. He can be skilled at discussing his hurt feelings and at characterizing the relationship as mutually destructive. He will often admit to some milder acts of violence, such as shoving or throwing things, in order to increase his own credibility and create the impression that the victim is exaggerating. He may discuss errors he has made in the past and emphasize the efforts he is making to change, in order to make his partner seem vindictive and unwilling to let go of the past.
An abuser's desire for control often intensifies as he senses the relationship slipping away from him. He tends to focus on the debt he feels his victim owes him, and his outrage at her growing independence. (This dynamic is often misread as evidence that batterers have an inordinate "fear of abandonment.") He is likely to increase his level of intimidation and manipulation at this point; he may, for example, promise to change while simultaneously frightening his victim, including using threats to take custody of the children legally or by kidnapping.
Excerpts from: Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, Author Lundy Bancroft
He is careful not to create the impression he's bad-mouthing her, while subtly planting his poisonous seeds. He might say, for example: "She's telling people now that I was abusive to her, and that really hurts me. It's gotten so I don't want to show my face places 'cause of what she' saying. I'm not keeping any secrets; I'll tell you right out that I did slap her one day, which I know is wrong. She has this thing about saying that my mother is a 'whore' cause she's been divorced twice, and that really gets to me, but I know I should have handled it differently.
When he leaves, her parents find themselves ruminating "Gee, she didn't mention anything about insulting his mother in that incident. That makes it a little different. She can have quite a mouth on her. I've noticed that myself. He shouldn't slap her, but he's obviously feeling guilt about it now. And he's willing to admit that it's partly his fault, while she blames it all on him. She does that in conflict with us sometimes, she doesn't realize it takes two to tango."
The part about the woman calling his mother a degrading name may never have even happened: my clients smoothly make up stories to cover their worst incident. But whether or not he's telling the truth is almost beside the point; he is playing to the societal value, still widely held, that a man's abuse toward a woman is significantly less serious if she has behaved rudely herself.
When an abused mother does break up the relationship society tends to do an abrupt about-face. Suddenly she hears from court officials and from other people:
“Well, maybe he abused you, but that’s no reason to keep the children away from him. He is their father, after all.”
”Don’t you think your own resentments are clouding your judgement about your children?”
”Don’t you believe that people ever change? Why don’t you give him the benefit of the doubt?” In other words, a women can be punished for exposing children to a man in one situation, but then punished for refusing to expose them to the same man in another situation. And, the second case is potentially even more dangerous than the first, because she is no longer able to keep an eye on what he does with the children or to prevent the postseparation excalation that is so common in abusive fathers."
Batterers naturally strive to turn mediation and GAL processes to their advantage, through the use of various tactics. Perhaps the most common is to adopt the role of a hurt, sensitive man who doesn't understand how things got so bad and just wants to work it all out "for the good of the children." He may cry in front of the mediator or GAL and use language that demonstrates considerable insight into his own feelings. He is likely to be skilled at explaining how other people have turned the victim against him, and how she is denying him access to the children as a form of revenge, "even though she knows full well that I would never do anything to hurt them." He commonly accuses her of having mental health problems, and may state that her family and friends agree with him. The two most common negative characterizations he will use are that she is hysterical and that she is promiscuous. The abuser tends to be comfortable lying, having years of practice, and so can sound believable when making baseless statements. The abuser benefits to the detriment of his children if the court representative fails to look closely at the evidence - or ignores it - because of his charm. He also benefits when professionals believe that they can "just tell" who is lying and who is telling the truth, and so fail to adequately investigate.
Batterers may continue their harassment of the victim for years, through legal channels and other means, causing periodic re-traumatizing of the victim and children and destroying the family's financial position. Motions by abusers for custody or for increases in visitation are common forms of retaliation for things that he is angry about.
Here are some additional tips for dealing with a narcissistic co-parent:
Don’t swing at every pitch. For example, emails that are just rants, attention-seeking, or expressions of self-aggrandizement should be ignored. Address any issue or problem that relates to your child; attack the problem, not the other parent, even if s/he is on the attack. If you do respond, keep it brief, to the point, and business-like.
Maintain firm boundaries. Limit your contact and communication, and maintain boundaries to keep the narcissist from inserting him/herself in your household and in your relationship with your children in inappropriate ways.
Accept that you can’t win an argument with a narcissist. Give up any efforts to be “right” in the eyes of the narcissist–even if you are. Focus instead on peace and wellness for your children. Don’t take it personally. The narcissist has a disorder that’s about them, not you.
Take care of yourself. Divorcing a narcissist with children in the mix means that for some years you will not be able to completely sever ties with this person. Dealing with them can be exhausting and stressful. Commit to self-care to bring yourself some relief. Your martyrdom will not help your children.