In high-conflict custody cases, narcissistic exes do more crazy before 9am than most people do all their lives. This also applies to borderline, histrionic and/or Cluster B personality disorder variety pack exes (i.e., people who exhibit traits from more than one disorder).
[*For anyone not old enough to remember, this is a spoof of an old US Army recruitment ad, “In the Army, we do more before 9am than most people do all day.”]
Divorcing a BPD, NPD or HPD can be even more exhausting, toxic and crazy-making than being married to them. They tend to be perpetual drama, chaos and DARVO machines. Because they are profoundly psychologically immature, they aren’t capable of successfully navigating the grief stages. Instead, they become stuck in the anger stage. They hold onto their anger, and devalue and blame their ex until their last breath.This can go on for decades, long after the youngest child turns eighteen.
Narcissistic exes do more crazy before 9am than most people do all their lives.
Combine this with the trademark Cluster B lack of empathy, twisting feelings into facts, a belief that MY truth trumps THE truth, emotional dysregulation, justifying the abuse they perpetrate as “deserved” because of perceived slights and grievances and a perpetual professional victim mindset, and you’ve got the makings of a high-conflict divorce.
Many clients (and their family law attorneys) fall into the trap of playing perpetual defense. Because the NPD/BPD/HPD ex brain farts lies at an accelerated rate, it’s easy to default into JADE mode (for clients) and crisis response (for attorneys.) Instead of developing and implementing a comprehensive divorce and custody strategy, many attorneys (at the behest of their clients) go from:
- Drama to drama
- Crisis to crisis
- Pathological lie to pathological lie
- Smear campaign to smear campaign
- Cherry picked distortion and half-truth to cherry picked distortion and half truth
- Triangulation to triangulation
- False allegation of abuse to false allegation of abuse
- Negative advocate to negative advocate
Rather than helping to educate the judge and other family court apparatchik as to who is driving the conflict and drama, some attorneys operate in a near constant state of crisis management. Meanwhile, other attorneys underestimate the damage of the NPD/BPD/HPD ex’s tireless lies and character assaults.
In either case, THIS IS NOT EFFECTIVE LAWYERING. It is, however, lucrative lawyering.
The most effective attorneys are able to think strategically and long-term.
Ideally, you want an attorney who understands what they’re dealing with and knows how to cut through the endless bullshit. Responsive, not reactive. If your attorney can’t or won’t articulate a clear strategy to get you and the kids a good outcome and to proverbially “declaw” and “de-fang” the crazy ex, it’s a problem. I never cease to be amazed how many clients’ attorneys haven’t explained their strategy — or just plain don’t have one. A strategy beyond, “Keep generating fees until your money runs out,” that is.
In order to facilitate this, it’s important to diligently document all the nonsense and bullshit — especially its impact on the kids. ABR (Always Be Recording) and ABD (Always Be Documenting). Then, you need an attorney who will actually look at and listen to your documentation and knows how to effectively implement it. Meaning, an attorney who knows what kind of behavior the judge actually cares about and will help you document more efficiently. This is a rare skill set.
Additionally, many clients become frequent fliers in the family court system. Therefore, a good attorney will use the first rounds of litigation to build a strong foundation for future custody litigation. While the courts are marginally more fair to fathers than even just a decade ago, if you have a penis you will have a much more difficult time getting the court to hold the non-penis ex accountable. This includes moms who drive drunk with the kids, emotionally terrorize the kids (and you), and anything else that would result in a father getting supervised visitation.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals with relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. Since 2009, she’s specialized in helping men and women break free of abusive relationships, cope with the stress of ongoing abuse and heal from the trauma. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. If you’d like to work with Dr. Palmatier, please visit the Schedule a Session page or you can email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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