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How to Navigate Divorce with a ...


If you're married to or have been in a marriage with a narcissist, you're aware of it. However, it's important to remember that an official diagnosis should come from a qualified professional.

If you have suspicions but are unsure, here's how Webster defines a Narcissist as:

  • An individual showing symptoms of or affected by narcissism, such as an extremely self-centered person who has an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
  • A person affected with narcissistic personality disorder
  • A person who is overly concerned with their physical appearance.

A narcissist can be defined as an individual who prominently displays signs of narcissism. These traits often manifest as an excessive self-focus coupled with an inflated sense of self-worth. Such individuals are often consumed by their own importance to the extent that they constantly crave admiration from others. Their lack of empathy for others is another defining characteristic, which often coexists with an excessive pride in their own accomplishments. More than just being proud, they often adopt snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes, further highlighting their narcissistic tendencies.

The extreme manifestation of these traits may result in a condition known as narcissistic personality disorder. In the realm of family law, there's a well-known adage - "We can't alter a person's nature." As infuriating and exasperating as divorcing a narcissist can be, the unfortunate reality is we cannot change their narcissistic traits. No matter how rational or kind you are or how much you resist, they will likely continue exhibiting narcissistic behavior.

Why Healthy Relationships with Narcissists Can Be Challenging

Narcissists are individuals who have an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. This overemphasis on self can often lead to complex and challenging relationships with others. These relationships are often characterized by a lack of empathy, manipulation, and a constant need for admiration.

To better understand why these relationships can be so difficult, let's delve into some of the key characteristics of narcissists that contribute to these challenges:

  • Lack of Empathy: Narcissists often have difficulty understanding or sharing the feelings of others. This lack of empathy can make it hard for them to relate to others and can lead to feelings of isolation and misunderstanding in their relationships.
  • Manipulative Behavior: Narcissists are often manipulative, using others to meet their own needs without considering the impact of their behavior. This can create a power imbalance in relationships and cause significant emotional distress.
  • Need for Admiration: Narcissists have a constant need for admiration and validation. They often seek out relationships where they will be praised and admired, which can lead to one-sided relationships where the other person's needs are not met.
  • Inability to Handle Criticism: Narcissists often react negatively to criticism, which can lead to conflict in relationships. They may become defensive or aggressive when their actions or behaviors are critiqued.
  • Self-Centeredness: Narcissists tend to prioritize their own needs and wants over those of others. This self-centeredness can make it difficult for them to maintain balanced and healthy relationships.

The characteristics of narcissism can create significant challenges in relationships. Understanding these traits can help individuals navigate relationships with narcissists and find healthier ways to interact. It's important to remember that everyone deserves to be in a relationship where they feel valued, respected, and heard.

Helpful Tips for Handling Legal Situations with Narcissistic Personalities

Navigating domestic relations with a narcissistic personality can often feel like an uphill battle. But it's possible to manage these interactions more effectively with the right approach and understanding. At Solutions Based Family Law Firm, we've successfully helped many clients deal with narcissistic personalities in their personal lives. Drawing from our extensive experience, our team can offer many helpful tips to make the journey smoother and more manageable for our clients.

Tip #1: Be Emotionally Ready for the Tactics a Narcissist Might Employ Against You

Dealing with a narcissist in any circumstance can be challenging, but during a divorce, it can feel like an uphill battle. Narcissists are known for their inflated sense of self-worth and lack of empathy, which can manifest in numerous ways throughout the divorce process. They might use every shared aspect of your life as a weapon, including finances, assets, belongings, and even your children.

The following points provide insight into the potential behaviors and tactics narcissists may employ during a divorce:

  • Custody Battles: Narcissists may seek full custody of your children, not out of genuine concern for their well-being, but to hurt you or avoid paying child support.
  • Asset Concealment: They may try to hide their assets to prevent them from being divided as marital property.
  • Property Disputes: Narcissists might insist on keeping the house in the divorce, not because they want it, but because they know you do.
  • Income Manipulation: In an effort to evade spousal or child support payments, a narcissist might quit their job or reduce their income.
  • Abandonment: In extreme cases, a narcissist might wish to abandon the marriage and family entirely, refusing to take on any divorce or parenting responsibilities.

However, it's crucial to remember this key point as you navigate through these challenges: Narcissists can adopt any unreasonable position they wish, but that doesn't guarantee they'll get what they want. Their attempts to manipulate the proceedings do not dictate the court's decisions. Regardless of their efforts, the court is committed to ensuring a fair outcome for all parties involved.

Tip #2: Rely on Legal Principles and Procedures

The foundation of family law in Colorado is based on the concept of "equity," as emphasized by the Colorado Legislature. It's important to understand that "equity" doesn't imply "equality." Instead, it involves a comprehensive evaluation of all circumstances to reach a fair and unbiased resolution. Therefore, it's crucial to rely on these legal principles and procedures to prevent any exploitation by a narcissist during the divorce process or while determining parental responsibilities.

  • Financial Disclosures: As per the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure 16.2, parties seeking a divorce or child support in a case involving the allocation of parental responsibilities are required to exchange financial disclosures. This exchange ensures each party completely understands the other's assets and debts. If you suspect any hidden assets relevant to the equitable distribution of property after these disclosures, there are several methods at your disposal. You can use discovery or subpoenas to uncover hidden information or hire a forensic accountant to detect concealed assets. If you believe a narcissist is attempting to hide money or provide an unfair account of their finances to evade supporting you or the children financially, know that there are ways to reveal the truth.
  • Prioritizing the Child(ren)'s Best Interests: It's not uncommon for clients to express concerns about their partner threatening to take away the children. However, it's important to remember that you are presumed to be a fit parent unless proven otherwise in court. The burden of proof to show you're unfit as a parent is quite high. As a presumed fit parent, it's also assumed to be in the child's best interest to spend time with you. If the other party seeks to be the primary parent, meaning they have the majority of the parenting time, they must prove that it's in the child's best interest.. This is a high bar to meet as well. So, unless you're engaged in dangerous or concerning behaviors, it's highly unlikely that a court would completely deny you parenting time and award it all to the other party.
  • Property Division: During the process of divorce, property is categorized into two types - marital and separate. Marital property includes all assets acquired during the marriage, excluding certain exceptions like inheritances or gifts. Separate property refers to any assets or debts owned or owed prior to the marriage. However, any appreciation in value of the separate property during the marriage is also considered marital property. After both parties have fully disclosed their financial details, Colorado law allows for an equitable division of marital property. This could involve one partner retaining the house and paying a certain amount from its equity to the other partner upon refinancing. Similarly, one partner might keep a motorcycle in exchange for giving the other partner a portion of their 401k. It's not uncommon for a narcissistic individual to claim sole ownership of assets, using phrases like "MY money, MY car, MY bank account" frequently. However, Colorado law mandates that marital property, which includes almost everything acquired during the marriage, be divided equitably among parties. This division considers factors like each party's earning ability, assets, income, and the value of the house.
  • Expert Assistance: A narcissist might try to limit their financial obligations post-divorce by reducing their income or even stopping work altogether. However, Colorado law states that if a party voluntarily becomes underemployed or unemployed with the purpose of shirking their financial responsibilities as it relates to support, they can be attributed an income they can earn. In such cases, a vocational evaluation expert can be hired to assess the individual's qualifications, skills, and earning potential. The expert's findings can then determine appropriate spousal or child support, regardless of the individual's income. If you suspect the other party is hiding assets or misrepresenting their income, income evaluation experts can investigate and provide insights into their current financial situation. Their findings can be presented to the court and utilized in making final determinations.
  • Settlement Agreements: When dealing with a narcissist in a divorce, be cautious about accepting any settlement agreement or parenting plan they draft without thorough scrutiny. As tempting as it might be to trust their assurances and sign the documents, refrain from doing so if you're uncomfortable with any aspect of the agreement or feel it results in an unfair outcome. Many law firms, including solutions-based family law firms, offer unbundled services where they perform limited tasks on your behalf. This could include reviewing the proposed separation agreement and parenting plan and advising you on potential drawbacks or missing elements that could be beneficial to include.

During a divorce or while allocating parental responsibilities, especially with a narcissist, it's essential to rely on Colorado's laws and legal procedures to protect your interests. Whether you conduct legal research independently or hire legal counsel, make sure you understand your rights and entitlements during this emotionally challenging period.

Tip #3: Consider Bringing in a Parenting Coordinator Decision Maker (PCDM)

When dealing with a divorce involving children and a narcissistic ex-partner, it may be wise to consider engaging a Parenting Coordinator Decision Maker (PCDM) or Decision Maker (DM). These professionals play a critical role in safeguarding the children's welfare post-divorce.

Key roles and benefits of a PCDM or DM include:

  • Facilitating negotiations: A PCDM aids in discussions between parties and helps make decisions regarding children. Their primary goal is to assist both parties in reaching an agreement that foremost serves the children's interests.
  • Making binding decisions: A DM has the authority to make binding decisions on issues related to the children, such as parenting time, decision-making, child support, or interpretation of Court Orders if the parents can't agree.
  • Dual role: While a PCDM initially aims to foster mutual resolution of disputes, they also have the power to make binding decisions if the parents fail to reach a consensus, ensuring the children's best interests are always prioritized.
  • Consent requirement: The involvement of a PCDM or DM necessitates agreement from both parties. They are particularly beneficial when joint decision-making becomes challenging due to ongoing disagreements.
  • Counteracting opposition: If your narcissistic ex-partner consistently opposes your decisions, a PCDM can prove invaluable. They listen to both sides and make decisions in the best interest of the children, which both parties must adhere to.

By incorporating a PCDM into your divorce proceedings, you can ensure that your children's interests aren't compromised by your ex's antagonism and reduce the need for court intervention over every disagreement. However, it is important that you understand the role and authority of a PCDM or DM before agreeing to it. Our attorneys at Solutions Based Family Law have extensive experience with these types of third-party professionals and can advise you on the pros and cons of having one on your case.

Tip #4: Seek Legal Representation or Support

Divorcing a narcissist without legal representation could risk unfair and inequitable outcomes. If finances are a concern, remember that alternatives to full legal representation are tailored to your needs and resources. Sometimes, limited representation might not be enough, and full representation could be a better fit. It's important to understand that legal services can be customized to your specific needs, which could limit the attorney's fees typically associated with full representation. An initial consultation can help determine the type of representation best suited to your situation. If you're divorcing a narcissist, having someone well-versed in the process to discuss your fears and concerns can be immensely beneficial. Whether it's securing full legal representation or opting for unbundled services from a family law attorney having reliable support and guidance is invaluable when divorcing a narcissist.

Remember, you don't have to face this challenge alone. If you're considering legal representation to navigate the complexities of divorcing a narcissist, we're here to help. Reach out to us at (720) 463-2232 or submit an online form to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced team members.