If you are going through a divorce or separation where you believe that your spouse or partner is a narcissist and there are financial and children issues to be resolved, it pays to engage a Family lawyer who understands the disorder. They will be able to pre-empt how a narcissist is likely to behave in the legal process and they can take active steps to manage the situation.
Narcissism is a personality disorder which is individually recognised and defined in the US, but not in the UK. In the US the life-time incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is between 0.5-6.2%; with 75% being in men. Narcissists view others not as people but as objects to be used for their own benefit. They have an inability to see things from another’s perspective, lack empathy, are exploitative and have a sense of entitlement.
Given the lack of recognition of narcissistic personality disorder in the UK, it is unlikely that you will be able to get anyone diagnosed as a narcissist. Therefore, telling a narcissist that they are a narcissist or labelling them as such before the court is likely to be counterproductive and best avoided. That does not mean that the disorder should be ignored, it means that you should instruct a lawyer who is used to dealing with people with their traits.
Narcissists will look forward to appearing in court as they see this as an opportunity to use their charm and employ their narcissistic tactics to persuade a judge. Some judges may see through this behaviour, but others may not.
A narcissist may try and manipulate the court process as they believe that rules and laws do not apply to them. They are likely not to comply with any court directions on time, provide inadequate financial disclosure and will instruct their lawyer to send correspondence which is full of hurtful and untrue accusations. They will try to wear you down in a battle by correspondence, rather than addressing the issues.
The preparation and the handling of any case in the Family Courts, whether this be relating to financial matters or children, is key, particularly if you are dealing with individuals who refuse to follow the rules.
The court will not label or find that someone is a narcissist and therefore the fact that someone is or isn’t a narcissist will not affect their decision. However, some of the behaviours of the narcissist and the consequences of these behaviours is something that the court can consider, and which may have an effect. If their behaviours manifest in not following court directions and result in aborted hearings, the court can impose penalties, including costs orders. Similar penalties can be imposed if they refuse to provide adequate financial disclosure.
Certain behaviours may also be directly relevant to the factors that the court must consider when reaching a decision, although this is less likely in financial cases as opposed to those involving children. If so, this is where the focus needs to be placed. Appropriate evidence will need to be gathered demonstrating the behaviours and the effect that this has had on both you and your children. This needs to be presented to the court in the most effective way.
Even if a settlement is reached or when the court has made their decision, any court order needs to be drafted carefully and be very detailed.,. Narcissists will continue to try and exploit any gaps or any ambiguity in any order to their advantage, even once a case has ended, which is why specialist legal advice and representation is essential.
Contact our Family Team
The Family Team at Bishop & Sewell have a breadth of experience in dealing with individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder when dealing with issues arising from a divorce or separation. If you are divorcing or separating from someone who you think is a narcissist and there are financial and children issues to be resolved, do contact us to see how we can assist.