Divorcing a Narcissist Husband or Wife Without Sacrificing Your Rights – Part I

Divorcing a Narcissist Spouse

Divorcing a narcissist spouse
does not have to be a nightmare.
Read this informative article to learn why

You may be at your wit’s end divorcing a narcissistic spouse, husband or wife.

It is not easy. But look at it this way. You only have to deal with one while our Orange County divorce attorneys have the experience of dealing with plenty over the years that we have practiced family law.

Divorcing a narcissist spouse does not have to mean that you have to suffer through a miserable divorce or that you have to accept a result that is not consistent with the law. There are proper ways to deal with such spouses who are deceptive, have serious anger management issues and take out those issues on you and the children, or are intent on driving up your legal fees.

This is part one of a two-part article. In this article, we are going to discuss how to deal with divorcing a narcissist spouse if you are the lower-income earner.

Part II will be published later in the week. In Part II, we will look at divorcing a narcissist spouse from the perspective of the higher earner spouse.

Let’s talk about some of the things you can do during the divorce case with your family law attorney to reign your spouse in and get a fair result in court.

Divorcing a narcissist spouse who is the higher income earner

Divorcing a narcissist spouse who is the higher income earner means you are likely up against bullying and intimidation. This can be especially true if you have been a long time homemaker, stay at home mom or earn very little income. These tactics generally involve financial abuse and include the following:

1. Failing to provide complete responses to discovery: Discovery is the formal request for information and documents regarding the marital estate. This tactic forces you, as the lesser income earner, to file a request with the court to compel the information you need and therefore incur attorney fees that should be avoided.

2. Failing to pay support or delaying it: Failing to pay support or delaying it is a way to exert control. It comes in many forms and includes unlawful deductions from support that were not court ordered.

3. Hiding income and assets: Narcissistic spouses sometimes feel as though they money they have made during the marriage is theirs and everything that has come from it should be their separate property. That’s not the law. California community property law defines what is and is not community property and separate property but try to explain that to a spouse like this…it may be futile.

All of these are intimidation tactics. All of these tactics are designed to cause the maximum amount of stress and attorney fees so that the lesser earning spouse eventually gives in and takes less than what he or she may be entitled to from the community estate.

There’s a right way and a very wrong way to respond to such bullying tactics.

The wrong way and unfortunately the typical way by many spouses is to respond in kind, especially in high asset divorce cases – meet unreasonable and aggressive behavior with unreasonable and aggressive behavior. This “fight fire with fire” approach when divorcing a narcissist spouse may be one of the worst things you can do in a divorce case because you essentially lower yourself to the same standard implemented by your spouse and therefore cause the litigation to go longer than it should. You also lose credibility because when the Orange County family court law judge wants to make a decision, he or she frowns on your conduct as well as that of your spouse and both of you lose credibility in front of the court.

Being unreasonable, using counter intimidation tactics, using children as leverage in a divorce or taking unrealistic expectations into the process often does not get results. It just causes more unnecessary stress and aggravation.

Instead, you can combat the narcissistic spouse with a simple and systematic approach – use your narcissist spouse’s conduct against him or her.

When a narcissist spouse fails or refuses to cooperate in providing financial information, California law allows you to compel him or her to provide the information. These motions to compel as they are sometimes called alert the court of your spouse’s lack of cooperation and ask the court to make orders consistent with California liberal discovery laws. California law also gives the court the discretion to monetarily sanction the unreasonable spouse for the attorneys fees and costs of the spouse who was forced to bring a motion to compel. This can be a powerful deterrent because you will have turn the spouse’s uncooperative conduct against him or her by having him or her pay your fees if the judge agrees with your position

If your narcissist husband or wife fails to pay support that is lawfully due, you have many options available to you. While contempt proceedings (which can be criminal in nature and could cause the non-paying spouse to be sentenced to jail) are one option, others include a garnishment of wages, levying of bank accounts and even asking the court for security instruments to ensure the payment of ongoing support.

If you are the low earning spouse, you also have the option available to you of filing an attorney fee motion based on your need and your spouse’s ability to pay and/or based on Family Code section 271 which sanctions an unreasonable spouse.

Divorcing a narcissist spouse doesn’t have to be a nightmare. There are steps you can take to keep your case on track and get a fair result. Contact us to discuss your case. We are here to help.

For a related article, check out our informative article that helps answer the question of how much does a divorce cost?

Don’t forget to visit us soon for Part II of divorcing a narcissist spouse.


  1. Lesa says

    This sounds like my husband. We have an S Corp together which he locked me out of April 3 but still continues to pay my weekly salary. I have temp orders on May 20th I live in Denver Colorado. I believe I have a good attorney but may the forces be with him on Monday dealing with my husband and all of his lies. He always says the biggest liar wins in court I pray he is so wrong.

  2. Cynthia says

    I completely disagree with the premise that it is possible to achieve a fair settlement in most cases, in most states. Narcissists, especially the cerebral variety, will stop at nothing to financially obliterate their spouse. The family court system is BROKEN and the lawyers and judges within that system are often as abusive as the narcissist. Bad behavior, I was told, means NOTHING to a JUDGE. After 3 1/2 years of litigation, 2 sets of attorneys, I feel as though I could have hired a goat to represent me and would have gotten better representation. I am 51, homeless and in debt, as a direct result of believing “the system” would protect me. But then, maybe it is just a Georgia thing or maybe it is because my XN happens to be…an attorney. My advice to anyone divorcing one of these disordered nightmares is to take the first offer and run. Sure wish I had.

    • says

      Hello Cynthia,

      Thank you for commenting. We are California lawyers so I can only comment on California law and what our experience has shown us here. I am sorry you have gone through such a tough time in Georgia and wish you the best.

      • Sandy says

        I have filed 1 year ago against a narcissistic sociopath. At $1K per month my attorney has done little…except be the conduit to the courtroom with 5 minute case conferences with the judge. One motion to compel discovery and my spouse still will not compel…his attorney now saying i have to subpoena his previously unknown to me bank records. REALLY? I thought this was part of discovery. I had everything in within 4 weeks , work FT and raise a special needs child. One year later I have to subpoena his hidden bank accounts? Oh…we should be debt free…but come to find out he has jacked up credit cards for his employer expenses, took the reimbursements but never paid the credit cards…which were concealed from me. I was flabbergasted at the debt revealed in discovery. Where is the cash from his reimbursements? No one cares because I happen to have a healthy retirement (worked for same employer 30 years, married 10) but all that compounded retirement (less premarital worth) is a 50-50 split in IL. The courts have allowed my husband’s delay in this divorce as it is a win win for him. MEanwhile he continues to spend money like there is no tomorrow and dating different women every night, AND he is still living in my premarital home! Judge won’t kick him out because it was “marital home”. so he comes and goes as pleases while we have an 11 year old boy he rarely sees and NEVER attends his sports events. I am completely responsible, along for our son’s education and welfare. Oh he does have to pay me family support since I have alwasy paid the house payment, and all household bills. why can’t he be forced to compel without my paying for it and delaying furhter the divorce. I just want this over but can’t come up with a settlement offer until full discovery. I was easy prey prior to our marriage…even took care of his elderly mom at the same time a newly adopted child which he now says was my agenda. The courts don’t care…that’s right. the judge doesn’t even know because it is not relevant. they only want to see how much I will have to pay him! Meanwhile I have to live with this person and his smug attitude of It doesn’t matter how much money I “pissed’ away, you still have all that retirement out there, :-/ “I have been through this once before remember? The courts don’t care” . Oh my husband knew what he was doing with me since he pursued me relentlessly and was flat broke when he came into my life. He fed off me like a leach for 17 years , yes even before our marraige but I took empahty on him for his failed businesses and now he wants to be “paid off”. Not to mention having created new debt since he walked away from the previous debt that I truly thought he would attempt to deal with. GRRRRRR I think divorce courts are shameful. We are real people here and the courts keep on enabling narcissistic sociopaths to seek out their next victims because they know the courts don’t care about bad behavior.

    • Nikki says

      I thought I was the only one. When I separated from my ex, I was granted through the courts the ability to return to my home state in Tennessee. My ex agreed, too.. I have been in a divorce since November 2011. My ex is a dentist, and I was a stay home mom. He and his female have tried to annihilate me. I went from being a full time mom, volunteering and raising my children to becoming homeless and in debt. I started with this man, and he didn’t have anything. He married me after purchasing a small office that he rented, that I completely assisted him in growing. We worked after Katrina to rebuild, and he now owns a state of the art dental office in the city. I have gone through two attorneys, an evaluation that he requested for no reason, and he filed to take domicile of our children who had been with me the last 3 years. I know this strategy was more about him holding on too his money. The evaluation stated children were better off with the mom, but circumstances changed when my blood pressures elevated. I was diagnosed with hypertension during my marriage, and a hearing officer gave this narcissistic ex of mine domicile, when my doctor ask me not to travel for a hearing. I had. valid doctor statement, an attorney who should have been present, and I even forwarded the doctors letter to the courts. My blood pressure was 170/100 and my attorney advised me to get their unless I was dying.( I have glaucoma, too.) No one displayed any concern for my health. They reversed domicile. The children and I were devastated. My attorney then withdrew. My narcissistic ex didn’t stop their, he wanted the house sold that the children and I were living in. I stand here today homeless and in debt at the age of 46. I feel like Job. I had no way of fighting him, and he knew that. He pushed me in a corner, with motion after motions that he filed, while using our children as a tool. He filed to take domicile in the same year that he agreed that the children should be with me. His words to the hearing officer still resonates with me today. He asked them could they force me to move back to Louisiana. I feel as if I’m in a dream and maybe I will wake up. My ex-husband has used ever unethical tactic he could. Who was I really married too?

      • S Smith says

        Nikki, I am so sorry to read about your nightmare. I am only beginning mine. There are resources out there, which I am sure you have gone through. Though I have little words of support advice to give, I was wondering if you ever heard of onemomsbattle.com? She has a very active support group on Facebook: One Mom’s Battle. Again, I am so sorry to read about your pains. I wish you the best of luck. Stay strong! xo

    • Marry says

      I Have had a judgment since 2004 and still in family court after 10 years . on food stamps and scared of my ex hurting my family members for helping me continue with my case. I have money judgment thats over a million and businesses that was never tured over to me. now i have to go back for a new trial . this court system is broken and there is no help for people like me. No money, food stamps and a paper thats called a judgment. Law is not about justice its all bull shit.

  3. Kathy says

    Enjoyed reading the article. It’s nice to know there is a lawyer out there who understands these people. My ex spent the last year of our 20-year marriage setting up holding companies, and getting our assets out of his name. After that, he decided to tell me he didn’t want to be my husband any more. I was a stay at home mom. I had no income. We had two kids in their teens. He wanted to stay together and sleep in seperate rooms while he continued his relationship with a stripper. Needless to say, I immediately told him to leave and filed for divorce withing a few days. That was Jan 2009. Four years later, I’m still living the nightmare. He stopped paying my property settlement, took me to court to have the settlement revised. He didn’t succeed, but I had to pay the legal costs. He still refuses to pay me. He also refused to have me released as a guarantor on his business debts (per the divorce decree). He defaulted on two bank loans, and today I find myself in the middle of a Chapter 11 because his bank has sued me for over $6mil. I don’t have that kind of money or assets worth that. I’m just trying to hang on to what I do have. When I asked my attorney about taking him back to court, she told me the divorce decree wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. She told me I could spend the money (which I didn’t have) to get a judgement against him, but I wouldn’t be able to collect it. I live in Nevada, and I he moved to California. The bank sued him as well, and he has a judgement against him, but he continues to live the same lifestyle. Having a minor to cintinue raising is the only thing that keeps me going. I’m living in a state of disbelief? I have no faith in our justice system.

  4. Mitzy says

    Agreed. These folks are all about WINNING, with no concern or ability to see what they have lost. The only thing they want is money, your and theirs to continue to FIGHT.

    I have had signed by spouse notes regarding selling things, (with his signed note) keeping a phone (he threw at me and then I made him sign a note giving it back rather than trust his words) guns (many of which I have a signed not from him telling me he only wants two and it is ok to sell the rest early in the seperation (now he is asking for five at mediation) and that is just the tip of the iceberg. I spoke to this at the TIME, no attorney claims I didn’t. So yep he got the guns (what if I had sold them?)
    I got a good settlement (if he doesn’t retract in some legal manuvering) as it is not totally final yet, an attorney that is lazy, I am being constantly threaten behind the scenes to pay his bills (his rent and utilities where he moved to when he left or he is going to cause me more legal bills).

    My attorney is NOT willing to address any of his thumbing his nose at the court in an effective manner, as he gets more money to ALLOW him to harrass me, and then I have to “consult” with my attorney AGAIN, on what I can do about any of this. Attorney makes “third grade mistakes so I will have to call and point this out, and he charges me for those calls. This is simple stuff like putting HE (ex) where it should say she (me) .
    I ask for NO contact except through attorneys, and about to be ex sends his veiled threats through our adult children. he uses me to make him copies and actually expects me (the non service person) to provide him with an updated dd214.
    No one expects anything of ex, cause I got a “big” settlement, which I see the loopholes in. I point this out to attorney and next time I talk to him he acts like this (which is just like the ex) , “you should have said something sooner, which I DID.
    I call ex to “get it straight” and he harrasses me more with threats, cussing, and intimadation. I call attorney and he blames “their side” for the delays. Ex threatens to call off the whole deal due to delays, and so I am back to harrassing my attorney to get me final orders to review, so we can move forward and not risk me losing the whole deal.
    He ex lies in court, which can be proven (again, with signed notes from him) and HE gets awarded money. The lawyers love this as they are draining BOTH our legal defense accounts and in truth offering us both NO protection, from THEM.
    Everyone is playing both ends against the middle, and I just want done, as if this keeps up (and we have been through mediation and reached a settlement just final wording stage now) I will have been awarded nothing but all the marital debts to deal with AND (not awarded, but I don’t dare not pay them and attorney advised I do to “look good”, WHAT?) ex’s expenses at his apt. to include FOOD, or he claims I am starving him out. I doubt I will ever see any of that money again.
    Ex got the most aggressive attorney in town but he is saving fees making ME do all the work (just like in the marriage). Oh, I was a thrity five year stay at home mom, with no way (and clearly not the time right now) to seek any employment that will allow me to deal with all this financial harrassment.
    Also all the marital debt for the last 20 years went on ccard in my name, that spouse constantly said we would pay off at retirement, NOT…so I have ALREADY gotten the financal abuse and shaft as all of those debts went to me in the divorice…. Meantime the CLOSED and very old accounts HE got, plus his truck have just about been paid off in the time it has taken to get this done.
    Yes, he is CLEARLY abusing me behind the scenes and IN court, and nothing is being done, I will be in an awful state if this goes on much longer.

      • says

        What gave you a feeling of hopelessness? Recognizing who you are divorcing is empowering. Put on your logical, businesslike hat, get an experienced and smart divorce lawyer and don’t let your spouse’s nonsense affect good decision making. Divorce isn’t a walk in the park. It requires courage and the will to do the right thing, even through adversity.

  5. Kate says

    This site is so damn helpful! I wish I could gather all of these ladies into a room so we could cry on each other’s shoulders. I too am in Colorado and have tried twice to divorce a very emotionally abusive, narcissistic attorney. My last lawyer ran out the clock and drained my finances without doing anything for me. He charged enormous amounts for I am not sure what, switched firms in mid stream, and gave my husband everything he wanted because they are members of the same club. So I am still married, living in extreme poverty with my kids, and my husband comes over for sex when he feels like it, and even if I say no he forces it on me. While I am still paying on the debt for the divorce that never happened. I have started a small business to get some cash flow, but it’s tough with little kids to care for. Meanwhile, the husband pretends to the world that he is a great guy, and loves to tell me I “drove him to the poorhouse” when in reality he hardly supported me ever, and I had to return to work two weeks postpartum after having our children just to pay my bills–while he spent 70k on a land for himself in another state that I have never even seen… in our 12 years of marriage. Thank you Mr. Farzad for at least letting us have a place to know we are not alone. Lawyer’s wives have no rights in America, fyi. As a friend who has been through it told me, “If nobody ever married one, nobody would ever have to divorce one.”

  6. Lucia says

    Almost two years ago, I began a process of divorce with my narc. husband. I don’t need to say that I suffered emotional abuse, I was betrayed, I had the police at my house because he wanted to put me out of the house, etc, etc. We all already know that story. But even with fear of an uncertain future, I hired a super lawyer in my city (Miami). I’m not from this country, but I am American citizen, I still have difficulties with the English, and had not a penny in our joint account. The only bank account I had in this country. My family sent me money from my country and I hired a great lawyer. My lawyer and my current husband’s lawyer indicated us a Collaborative process. My lawyer also indicated a psychologist to try working on a rapprochement of the parties so that we could reach an agreement. The two lawyers came to the conclusion that we should have a neutral accountant, since my current husband has business and I did not know anything at all. Our marriage lasted 10 years when we was made ​​more money in his business. Naively, I believed that I would put even trust my current husband. I still did not know he is narcissistic. Was the psychologist who gave me this “tip” even though she was neutral.
    It was when I started reading all about this problem and started instructing me to become stronger. Wisdom is a weapon and I needed to know how he would act to protect me even before he tries to intimidate me.
    During a year of collaborative process, my current husband didn’t accepted an accountant. and 4In the last 4 months of our collaborative process, he did not answer more to his own lawyer nor a psychologist. The only person who could maintain contact with him. I stayed in our house. He decided to move out. He pays the mortgage, my health insurance and the car insurance that I use. During all these years of marriage, I worked earning extra money. Very little so I can not survive. The first offer that my current husband did for me was give me $ 10.00 (exactly: Ten U.S. dollars) and 20% of the business, he says there’s no profit in the last few years.
    I started working two part times jobs and have managed to keep me through this period. We have no children, thank God!
    So, my lawyer advised me to enter in the litigate. I had already spent $ 10,000 for nothing. In fact,. my lawyer told me he did not want me to spend more money with him and then go to a litigation. Actually, I owe $ 4,000 to him, and he told me to take this money and use it to pay the new attorney. I still owe him and he knows that one day I’ll pay it. My lawyer introduced me to another super lawyer and once again, my family sent me money.
    Now, this Thursday, October 2nd, my attorney got a hearing with the judge, it would be only in December. It is a case management conference. My lawyer did one deposition in my current husband, put a motion of compel against him, in addition a relief motion. She wants him to start helping me, not only with a temporary allimony but also with the expense of lawyers and cout fees. I already spent $ 40,000 with her. My current husband failed in discovery, failed when he filled the interrogation and lied in relation to his affidavit. In the deposition I found out he has a new business for 5 years. My lawyer also believes he lied to the IRS. I’ve also discovered another account he has with friends who wasn’t quoted in the interrogation.
    My lawyer wants the payment of a forensic accountant to come from the marital founds.
    She does not believe I can get a fair settlement if I do not know everything. And she does not want me to bring more money from my country.
    I do not know what to expect from this audience with the judge this week. But I do not want to believe that there is no justice in this country that says is very democratic and fair to all citizens. But the truth is that if I had not family who could help me, even being in another country, I could not have done anything. More than two years I’m suffering financial abuse. And until today I’m traped in the system.
    I know my lawyer is very good, but I’m also doing my job. I’m keeping everything very organized, I read everything (also I bought two books about this subject) about what I should or I should not do, how to behave in a case like this, I made a journal about my married life (my lawyer read everything), and sought all documents that can prove things in my favor.
    I imagine that my lawyer is doing a good job and I know she is well experienced. And when she needs to give me bad news, she does. I like that.
    The problem is that I discovered that the system allows people like my current husband has advantages even not working well. He does not like to spend money but he did not realize that he is spending as much as I do.
    Somehow, I found good lawyers who seens to be honest, but do not know about the judge. I read things about him. but do not know if they are truths.
    The other party placed a motion against me forcing me to go to mediation. This motion was placed 3 days before my lawyer talked to the judge and ask him this conference in October 2nd. As she get this audience, I imagine that the judge did not consider this motion.
    But I do not know what to expect this week. We’ll see.

  7. Ann says

    You ladies are all empowering for me. I pray for you all as I read your posts. I’m sorry you all had to go thru this as I’m in this journey of separation. Great attorney in GA gave me some great advice to put something away before it all gets started with him trying to make you homeless. Never thought he would try. Took OUR $$$ to another country. I got a lot of wonderful therapy thru it all to keep me in a good place. This can drive you nuts if you let it. I choose to keep loving. Eventually, I’m going to crest a place of refuge where women can stay who are going thru this and I will call on some of the ones who’ve been there (You) to help. Out of our need do we see what needs to be in place for us to really make our bitter experiences better and realize that no matter what…. We are loved and life goes on.

  8. Ms. Brown says

    I am married to a Narcissistic bully !!! he is 62 years old, drives two Bentleys and now has a 25 year old GF…younger then his ( our) daughter.
    We have been in business for 28 years, I have always allowed him to call the shots and handle all the money…Big mistake. Here I am now renting, working for him splitting the profits from my business that I was awarded in the divorce and living check to check. I have so many ways of going after him but at what cost ? I can’t afford attorneys, my sister is an attorney in Utah and can do a Pro had viche ?? and represent me here in California, working under a law firm here in L.A.

    She knows my entire history with this man and knows that I have been just complying with what ever it is he wants because I don’t want to be homeless, he owes me spousal support, 20 % profit from the business we built together and I am getting nothing !!!! we used one attorney to draw up the papers after 25 years, I believe his attorney is bias, he has done work for me but also represents him and advises him behind my back, I am sure….

    I wish I could find a law firm that would work with me and my sister on getting this Bas*^$d !! why do they always get away with it ? I am 51 years old and so frightened that I will have nothing for my future or retirement unless I do something now. Anyone out there that can help or suggest advice on how to collect on my divorce decree ? I appreciate it !!! Good luck out there in divorce land, its not a fun thing to have to settle.


    • B. Robert Farzad says

      I do know of a lawyer in LA who handles collection related matters to family law judgments. If you wish to get that referral, you can call me. I am in trial all of this week but you can call next week. Refer to this comment when you call so it reminds me of who you are.

  9. Susanna says

    You have described my husband’s conduct to a “T.” And I have been doing exactly what you recommend – as Pro Per (I’m an ex-litigator). The problem in Yolo County is that my judge (a woman) doesn’t give a s**t about dirty tricks, intimidation, non-disclosure or even blatant PERJURY if it’s directed at a non-working wife/Pro Per. I am not exaggerating when I say “doesn’t care.” Literally gets angry at the suggestion and will not hear or read a word about it. In my nearly 20 years as a civil litigator (not family law), I have never seen a more openly biased or bullying judge. I am told the only other Family Court judge in Yolo (also a woman) is even worse. I was literally bullied into settling, even with a financial disclosure RFO pending (with a LONG list of non-disclosed information and documents). Luckily, my husband was sufficiently worried about the prospect of disclosure that he settled somewhat reasonably, although I know support would be higher if he’d disclosed all of his assets and income.

  10. Linda of Northern Cali says

    Dear Mr. Farzad,

    thank you so much for this article. I have read many articles about divorce and everything related to mine over the last several years, but today, by the grace of God I found this article that you wrote. I have to go back to court tomorrow to deal with my narcopath ex-husband and his narcissistic lawyer regarding my spousal support. So much to tell, but I’m sure you’ve heard just about everything throughout the course of your career. I just want you to know that I have always found your articles helpful. I appreciate your kindness, commitment and devotion to helping people like me. Thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand times over. You have lifted my spirit and given me the courage I needed to face my fears and not give up. God bless!

  11. Amina says

    Thank you Robert, i am glad there is an attorney who understands what its like to divorce a narcissist. I am currently separated(not legally) with my husband, during our marriage iwas financially and physically abused, my husband earns 10,000 dollars a month, we never had a joint account with my ex husband, i wasnt working and he used to deposit a 1000 dollars to my personal account which i was using to run the household,i was paying all bills. This made it hard to save. My husband had this habit of having everything his way,and i mean everything including what curtains i can put up or bedsheets i can buy. My financial abuse got worse after we separated, he used silent treatment on me for 8 months, he refused to support me the way he should, i reached a point where i had to borrow from friends. he withheld my alimony one time to pressure me to accept his divorce terms, we have about 800,000 dollars in savings but i cant even access a penny of this money. he knows i dont have the money to fight him in court, and this is where my abuse will get worse. divorcing a narccisst is by the far the worst thing you can ever attempt. What is keeping me alive is my faith,family and friends,therapy.

    i have a lawyer and going to forward your article to her, very people understand the narcissist personality.

    • B. Robert Farzad says

      Thank you for the kind words Amina and I wish you the best. Stay strong and focused. Don’t let his his emotional baggage become your distraction.

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