How to Win Against a Narcissist in a Contested Custody Case

The term narcissist is commonly used to describe a person who believes they are very important, demands constant praise and attention, is extremely self-centered, and will ignore the needs of others to meet their own. Narcissism, however, is a personality disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Narcissistic personality disorder can only be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, however, even without a diagnosis, your spouse may have the disorder or might simply display narcissistic personality traits that cause them to behave as if they have the disorder. This blog discusses narcissistic characteristics and how to win against a narcissist in a contested custody case. 

It is almost a guarantee that if you are divorcing a narcissist, and want custody of the children, they will too. And they will stop at nothing to get it. Telling blatant lies in order to convince the judge, and probably all of your family and friends, that you are a neglectful or abusive parent will almost certainly be one of their tactics. They may claim that you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, even if you have never touched an illicit drug in your life and rarely, or never, drink. Do not participate in this drama. Arguing with a narcissist is pointless. Getting angry in court and speaking out of turn, lashing out at your spouse while you are testifying, or feverishly scribbling on the notepad you are using to communicate with your attorney during hearings might make it appear as if you easily lose your temper and might be the unreasonable parent. The key here is simply to prove that you are the reasonable parent, concerned only with the best interests of your child. 

In order to do this, you need to know what “best interests of the child” means to the court. In an original custody decision, there is no presumption in favor of either parent, and the court must consider the factors enumerated in Indiana’s custody order statute (I.C. 31-17-2-8) when determining the best interests of the child. In a custody modification (I.C. 31-17-2-21), the parent asking for custody to be granted to them must prove that there has been a substantial change in one of the custody order factors and that a modification is in the child’s best interests according to the custody order statute. While you cannot change the age and sex of your children, you can help to ensure that their relationship with you is bonded and your interactions with them include being the primary caregiver, spending quality time together, and providing a safe and supportive environment. This will help to guarantee that the children wish to live with you and that they are well adjusted to their home, school, and community. It is very likely that you are already the primary caregiver (the parent performing daily tasks such as preparing meals, helping with homework, coordinating schedules, etc.) and have a much closer relationship with your children if your spouse is a narcissist. Now you need to prove it in court. 

Because your narcissistic spouse will likely tell any lie they believe will serve their current interests, a contested custody case may involve more issues and evidence than usual; be prepared for this. Save every text, e-mail, and message conversation you have with them. Look through your phone’s messaging programs, all of your e-mail accounts, and any social media platform you both use for old conversations where you may have discussed any incident they are likely to lie about in court. Keep a detailed journal of every interaction you have with them, including the time and date and referencing any proof you have of the interaction (text messages, video or audio recording, e-mails, or letters). Start a calendar to track your children’s activities, appointments, and parenting time with each parent. Make notes any time your spouse fails to attend an event or exercise their parenting time. Take photographs and/or video of your child’s extra-curricular activities and school events, trips and outings you take them on, and everyday life at home, such as watching a movie together, bedtime routines, or playing in the backyard. Attend all parent-teacher conferences and print any e-mails or messages you have between you and your children’s teachers. You want to prove that you are completely immersed in their lives, and your spouse is not. 

Finally, and most problematic, is that you must show the court that you are the reasonable parent. This might mean rethinking your custody and parenting time request. Asking for sole custody and minimum, restricted, or supervised parenting time for your spouse can make you appear unreasonable and unwilling to raise a child together from separate households. Both of which can result in an unfavorable custody order. You may also want to avoid referring to your spouse as narcissistic or offering any diagnosis to the court, unless you have medical records proving that they suffer from a mental illness. While the custody order statute does list the mental health of all individuals involved (I.C. 31-17-2-8 (6)) as a factor the court must consider when making a custody determination, insisting that your spouse has a mental illness without medical evidence can make you appear to be unreasonable. Instead, focus on your spouse’s actions, not what may cause them to behave the way they do. 

If you are involved in a contested custody case with a narcissist, the experienced attorneys at Ciyou & Associates can help. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement. 


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