You are getting divorced, maybe you already are divorced, and the children’s other parent wants full custody.
Not only that, but they don’t really care about what’s best for the kids, they simply want to beat you.
Renegotiating a relationship through courts is bad enough, but when the other side makes it personal it gets a whole lot worse, really fast.
The worst part is your children’s long-term well-being is on the line when one parent goes to war. Winning a custody battle against a narcissist will always put the children’s well-being first, or else it’s not a real win.
The behavior just described is classic narcissism; a person who is completely focused on their own outcome with no consideration for any of the other players.
Once incited, the narcissist will do everything and anything to regain the high ground in their own mind. This may include:
- Personal threats
- Legal and Financial threats
- Personal insults, attacks, and derogatory behavior
- Gaslighting of the children and yourself as well as anyone in their influence.
- Working at turning others to their cause (to beat you)
- Going to any lengths to win, emotionally and financially
Sounds pretty scary?
Believe it or not, there are techniques for managing the behavior of the narcissist.
Additionally, there are trained professionals who can guide you legally and emotionally through the process.
Battling Vs. Managing
Winning a custody battle against a narcissist requires a deep understanding of their nature and what they will and will not react to.
What makes this especially tricky is the fact that they are the other parent.
You will be having a relationship with them as long as you, they, and the children live. They will always be shaping the “facts” to suit themselves. You will certainly be dealing with personal attacks, manipulation, and a master of turning others against you.
If they become triggered, they intuitively know how to present themselves as rational to the schools, the kid’s therapists, and the courts while painting you as the bad apple in the process.
Get it, the mother or father of your children is at the very least mentally unbalanced if not ill.
It’s not really about you or the children so don’t take it personally. This is the single largest challenge when “battling” a narcissist.
They don’t think about anyone else, except as others relate to them.
In fact, let’s take the word “battle” out of the mix.
You are the healthy one, you are not battling much as managing.
First, you are managing yourself, secondarily, the narcissist, and from there, your children and all the professionals and people who they interact with.
Hire Divorce Professionals Who Understands
In winning a custody battle against a narcissist, you will want to only hire an attorney who specializes in Family Law.
You want an experienced highly specialized attorney. Next, vet the attorney to ensure they truly understand how to deal with a narcissist.
Talk to at least three attorneys.
Read reviews of them online. Read their websites and look to see if the word narcissist even shows up there. If there are none in your immediate area that fit the bill, widen your search. Talk to local therapists who work with families and ask who they would recommend.
It is vital that your attorney not only understands the law but also who they are dealing with on the other side.
Let them do the battling for you. The Narcissist wants to beat you. They don’t mind losing in court as long as you are losing with them.
Narcissists want to see those who they feel are opposing them twist in the wind. The narcissist will be focused almost exclusively on you.
What that means is your attorney and even the judge will appear to the narcissist as tools to turn against you, at least until they feel that you are once again an ally.
Understand & Plan A Long Game
Narcissists tend to be short-term thinkers. They are all about squashing opposition in the now.
Understanding that for them, being right is primary gives you tools to work with. Winning a custody battle against a narcissist requires understanding their interests. Knowing what elements they need in place to feel secure.
When You understand what makes them tick you can form a game plan. Think ten to twenty years down the road. Questions you can ask yourself are:
- What is the best outcome for your children given that the other parent will likely be present?
- What values do yu need to teach your children to counteract the gaslighting and lies of the narcissist?
- How can you prepare your children without triggering the other parent or putting them in the middle?
- What does a win/win look like for you (the children) and the other parent?
- What relationships need to be in alignment in the family? In school? In the court?
- How much are you willing to give for the well-being of your children?
You may want to explore these questions with a spiritual leader, your best friend, a professional coach and/or therapist.
Not only can they help you get to the answers, but they can also help you strategize how to get there, as well as support you in maintaining your emotional equilibrium along the way.
There are going to be times when it seems like the whole situation is resolved however, this is definitely a case of waiting for the other shoe to drop. The narcissist is easily triggered.
Sometimes they are triggered by circumstances outside of your circles and will displace emotion in your direction, catching you offguard. This is when a third party can really be of service.
Plan With Your Attorney
Once you have clarity on the long-term outcomes, then it’s time to plan with your attorney.
They know the legal landscape and will help you figure out how to get as close to the outcomes you are seeking as possible given the law, the situation, and the courts. They can advise you on what legal actions they can take on your behalf.
Most custody disputes end with some form of joint custody. Courts favor the presence of both parents in the children’s lives and will weigh their decision based on tangible evidence of the parenting ability and environments of both parents. Your attorney will be the person most suited to give you an idea of what is possible and what is not in the court system.
The factors the courts look at the most According to FindLaw are:
- Financial health of both parents
- Physical ability to care for children
- Wishes of children and the wishes of the parents
- Medical and psychological health (documented) of both parties
- Potential hardship to children
- Willingness to support the children’s relationship with the other parent
- Criminal history, substance abuse etc.
Remember that your judgments and experience of the other parent will not be self-evident to the court.
Ideally, the courts take into consideration the well-being of the children above all else. Remember that the narcissist is the master of twisting situations in their favor.
You will want to document everything. Late pick up? Document it. Argument in front of the kids? Document it.
The only way to battle the gaslighting of a narcissist is cold hard facts. What is self-evident about the other parent to you will not be self-evident to the court.
Video evidence is not always the best way to document. Courts look favorably on journaling. Use a parenting journal both to record the positives you are doing with and for the children as well as any negatives that you see on the other side.
Keep Your Kids Out of It
Do not talk with your children about what you think of the other parent. Focus only on the strengths of the other parent.
Never speak ill of the other parent. Do not get on the bandwagon if and when your children express frustration or anger regarding the other parent.
Instead focus on what the child can learn, what their responsibility might be, and so on. There are definite actions you can take to maintain the well-being of your kids, see our blog: https://richinrelationship.com/narcissism-divorce-your-kids/
Make This A Business Relationship
Always have your eyes on the prize: the well-being of your children.
Remember that you can not change the other parent and that as personal as it may feel, their issues are really not about you. Your job is to keep your side of the street clean and work towards outcomes that will best serve your children.
They will try to undermine you in any way that they can.
The kids will come back telling you how awful you are ala the seed planting of the other parent. They will poison the well with the kids doctors, therapists and teachers.
You always will be in the job of uplifting your children. By keeping your focus and always uplifting your children, you will win professionals and eventually even the children over.
This will take time, even years.
Winning The “Battle”
Winning can only come one way; by always showing your best face as a parent.
Continue to really care. Keep doing the personal work. Listen to the professionals you have hired to help you.
Prove that you are emotionally, financially, and physically fit. Take the high ground and stay out of the mud and you will win this battle over time.
Last and also first, keep your children’s well-being front and center at all times.