In yesterday's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we discussed what a narcissist is and what complications can present themselves if you are married to one. Going through a divorce with a spouse who thinks only of herself, doesn't care about the outcome of the divorce concerning your future and will do whatever it takes to achieve superiority through the divorce is a tough row to hoe.
Fortunately, you do not have to go through a divorce with your narcissist without any assistance. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are back to contribute more pieces of advice on how to handle a difficult divorce with a narcissistic spouse in today's blog post.
Tip #1: Get yourself organized and get your paperwork ready to be filed
Remember power, control, autonomy, vindictiveness, etc. are all characteristics of a narcissistic person. As a result, you can expect that person to act in ways that would accentuate these characteristics. Unfortunately for you, this could mean that he or she attempts to hide important papers that you may end up needing to advocate for yourself in a Texas divorce.
Bank records, investment statements, documentation for your kids, pay stubs, tax returns and the like are exactly what I am referencing here. These are documents that may be in a safe or in a hallway closet. Either way, I recommend that if you have an opportunity to do so, you should make copies or take photos of any important documents that you may need before you lose the opportunity to do so. One day you may slide your key in the front door to your home, only to find that your ex-spouse has changed the locks on the front door. You will have future opportunities to get back into the home but it may not be for weeks that a court order is ready that allows you to do so.
No matter if you have children or not, the financial aspects of your divorce are an incredibly important part of your case. Your attorney and the court will need to get an accurate representation of where you stand financially before the case gets too far along. If you and your spouse are not able to settle your divorce, then a judge will need to get an accurate snapshot of your finances and those of your family.
Tip #2: Hire an attorney- and make it a good one
Many people attempt to file for and seek a divorce without the assistance of an attorney. That’s fine. I’m not going to tell you that every divorce needs an attorney to be involved. Some cases are open and shut, no property, no kids cases where an attorney would only stand to gum up the works and make life more difficult for the parties and the court.
On the other hand, there are those divorces where the assistance and advocacy of an experienced family law attorney are essential. A divorce where your spouse is a narcissist means that you will have your hands full trying to keep him in check. Do not attempt to do so without the assistance of an attorney who has been there and done that regarding opposing parties who are narcissists.
First, you want an attorney who has experience handling family law cases. Many attorneys will tell you that they can handle your divorce for you, but fewer of those people will have done so. A divorce is not something so simple that any attorney who has a law license can help you. Spend as much time as you are able studying local attorneys, meeting with them in person and getting a sense of who you feel comfortable with representing you.
Keep in mind that you do not have to be an expert in the law or even a novice to be able to select a good attorney. Number one, you can ask for references from past clients and current attorneys before selecting an attorney to hire. Next, see how your attorney gives advice. If he goes through the issues like a teacher and explains each to you before getting to the part where you can ask questions then you have found yourself a keeper. If your prospective attorney cannot even explain the main issues of your case then you ought to move on.
Ultimately it should be considered a strong possibility that your case will go to trial. Normally I tell clients that it is unlikely that their case will make it this far, but in reality, divorces involving spouses with strong narcissistic personality traits tend to last longer. Your attorney should be a skilled negotiator who can explain how he or she will negotiate your case (with your oversight) when the time comes. However, he or she must also be prepared and willing to go to trial if necessary.
Tip #3: Negotiate for a strong settlement and then push for more
The narcissist likely sees himself as being in a morally justified position at all times. No matter if their position is dead wrong or is the polar opposite of what is fair or equitable. With that said, if your attorney is not ready to negotiate fiercely on your behalf then you have chosen poorly. Your attorney needs to be asked about how they will negotiate on your behalf. Note that just because you are negotiating a case doesn’t mean that you are conceding anything.
The fact is that just about every courtroom in Texas has had divorce cases where one spouse is trying to do what is right and the other spouse is trying to do what is unfair or unjust. If you are going to be on the side of right, then your attorney needs to be able to fight harder than the other side.
The result of all of this is that you are likely going to spend more money on an attorney than a similarly situated person whose spouse is not a narcissist. You will oftentimes find that the attorney who is the best advocator/negotiator/litigator also charges like a top advocator/negotiator/litigator. It is better to be overprepared and never called upon to engage in legal battles than to come unprepared and be caught with your metaphorical pants around your ankles.
Tip #4: Be a rock- hide emotion and negotiate like someone with a backbone
At a certain point, a divorce becomes a business transaction. Yours is to pull from your divorce as much value as is possible for your children and yourself. When you are past the point of salvaging the marriage, you should look at things as a cold and calculating businessperson.
On the other side of the equation, your spouse will be trying to make you look as bad as possible. This means that every argument you make will be met with resistance. Every piece of evidence you submit to the court will be second-guessed. In your personal life, you may receive phone calls and text messages from your spouse that attempt to intimidate or anger you. The easy reaction to have would be to respond with anger or frustration. That is what your spouse wants and that could spell disaster for your case.
An unreasonable, ill-tempered and hostile person is not a sympathetic party. That is not to say that you need to rely on the sympathy of anyone. Your case will rise and fall on the strength of your circumstances and your evidence. However, the judge will be looking at your character and your temperance especially if you are asking to become the primary conservator of your children. If your narcissist spouse can make you out to be a person who becomes unhinged at the drop of a hat, this will not allow you to build as strong of a case as you might otherwise.
Tip #5: Keep track of your conversations and correspondence with your spouse
This is a piece of advice that I have found to be especially important for those of us who are not the most organized in the world. If you can focus on organizing your life during your divorce then you will have no problems doing so after your divorce. It is never too late to learn this skill and you will thank yourself for having done so when the dust settles from this divorce.
Now that I have dispensed with my life advice for this blog post, we can get back to the subject matter at hand. You will be in a good position if you start to document and keep a record of all the times that you and your spouse peak or exchange messages during your divorce. Do not be surprised if your spouse attempts to lie about something related to you or them during your divorce. He or she may attempt to do so concerning something that they had discussed with you over the phone or via email. You can hold him or her accountable by keeping track of what has been (and what has not been) said between the two of you.
Tip #6: Only communicate with your spouse to the extent that you are comfortable
In some divorce cases, I will encourage a client to speak to their spouse about settlement negotiations, their kids or any other issue that is relevant to their case. I'll do that to help facilitate dialogue and negotiation in a situation where the two spouses can be civil and rational when speaking about their lives and their divorce.
However, not every divorce allows for easy communication between the parties. If you are married to a narcissist and are reading this blog post then it is likely that yours is not a divorce that would make for free and easy conversation between yourself and your spouse. How can you make your case a tolerable one while maintaining good boundaries as far as when you need to exchange information?
I would recommend that you work with your attorney, your spouse and their attorney on setting up boundaries for communication early in the case. Take the lead on promoting those boundaries that you believe are necessary. For instance, if you know that your spouse can easily frustrate you if you talk to him in person or the phone, why not choose to correspond only via email. You can remove much of the emotion from the conversation and make things purely about the facts in your case. You’ll limit their ability to manipulate and frustrate you. You will also limit the likelihood that you will say something impulsively and therefore hurt your case.
Final thoughts on divorcing a narcissist
It is possible to divorce a narcissist and to keep your sanity. It is not easy (no divorce is) but it can be done if you act intentionally in all the things that you do. If you think after reading today’s blog post that it would be difficult to follow all the tips that I laid out, I would agree with you. However, it is those people who act intentionally and with a goal in mind that tend to manage their divorces better than those people who sort of wander into a divorce and then wander around during the case itself.
Respect the orders from the court, take some time for yourself and remember to protect your children from as much "divorce talk" as possible. You can make decisions that can lead to a successful divorce. It is up to you to be in charge of your life and to minimize the distractions that are often brought about by narcissistic people.
Questions about divorce in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the content of today’s blog post please feel free to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to learn more about your case and to receive direct feedback about your particular circumstances.